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Eeimeth Cutierm 






• * 



ESSAYS AND POEMS OF 



EMERSON 



*■ . ' •■» 






WITH AN INTRODUCTION 



BY 



STUART P. SHERMAN 

PBOFBSSOB OF SNGLXBH IN THB UNIVEBSITT OF X£LXNOI8 



"A man is a fagot of thunderhoUsJ* 



• • c 



CID 




NEW YORK 

HARCOURT, BRACE AND COMPANY 



--^ 



I 

I 



COPYRIGHT • 1921 • BY 
HARCOURT, BRACE AMD COMPANY, INC 









PRINTED IN THE U.S. A* 



"AU young persons thirst for a real existence for an oly'ect, — for 
something great and good which they shaU do vnth their heart" 

— Emerson* s Journals 



tti 



^They shaU find that they cannot get to the point which they would 
reach without passing over that highway which you have made," 

— Emerson's Journals 



i.:, 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

Introduction vii 

I. Life and times viii 

II. Character of his influence xii 

III. Religion xvij 

IV. Philosophy xxi 

V. Morals xxiv 

VI. Politics xxix 

VII. Literature and art xxxvi 

ESSAYS 

Op toe Sources Of Poweb 

/ I. Nature 1, 

^11. The Over-Soul 44 

III. History 63 

IV. Experience 86 

V. Uses of Great Men. 110 

Of Morals and Arts 

VI. Spiritual Laws 129 

VII. Self-Reliance 150 

VIII. Compensation' 177 ^ 

IX. Heroism 197 

X. Friendship 209 ^ 

XI. Manners 225 

^XII. Politics 247 . 

^11. Art 261 

^ ^V. Beauty 272 ^- 

;0f Men in Action 

XV. The American Scholar 287 

'f, XVI. Man the Reformer 307 

.,■ XVII. The Conservative 324 

-XVIII. The Transcendentalist 342 

XIX. Montaigne or, The Skeptic 360 ^ 

'^ XX. Napoleon or, The Man of the World 382 

VXXI. The Poet 402 

XXII. The Young American ^b ^ 



vi CONTENTS 

POEMS 

 Days ir: 4 

Good-Bye ^^^ 4 

The Rhodora. ^t^T 4 

The Humble-Bee 4 

^ Each and All . . . V-TT. 4 

^ Y The Problem. . XT. 4 

.. ^Forbearance 4 

From: W^iid Notes 4 

Monadnoc 4 

* Fable 4" 

V The Snow-Stgpn. ^ 4 

» Brahma . . )f\. . _,. 4' 

\The Sphinx. . . Vf7. 4' 

The Visit .^^^ 4' 

^The World-Soul . yr 4' 

To J. W 4' 

)., y-Hamatreya 4' 

^Threnody .^ 4J 

dde to Beauty. .^T 4) 

Give All to Love 41 

Initial, Daemonic, and Celestial Love 41 

The Apology 6i 

Merlin 5( 

Bacchus 5^ 

Grace 5'. 

Merops 6" 

Hymn Simg at the Completion of the Concord Monu- 
ment .^ 5! 

Ode Inscribed to W. H. Channing. VfT 5: 

Freedom 5! 

Ode Sung in the Town Hall 5! 

Boston H3nnn 6] 

Voluntaries 51 

Musketaquid 51 

The Test 51 

Forerunners 51 



« 



INTReDUCTION 

Some books, like some persons, convey to us all that they 
will ever have to give at a single sitting. Others hold our 
attention profitably through two or three encounters. But 
the books to be shipwrecked with, the great books into 
which rich and substantial lives have been distilled and 
packed — the Dialogues of Plato, Montaigne's Essays, Bos- 
well's Johnson, the Essays and Journals of Emerson — these 
are to be lived with and returned to and made the com- 
panions of hours and days and moods as various as those m 
which they were written. You caimot discover what Emer- 
son has been to others or what he may be to you by any 
cursory turning of his pages. Still less can you "get him 
up" by studying any sunmiary of his philosophical sjrstem. 
Philosophers tell us indeed that his philosophical system is 
hopelessly antiquated, and fancy that they have disposed 
of him. But Emerson himself remarked: "I need hardly 
say to anyone acquainted with my thoughts that I have no 
system." The value of his thoughts depends scarcely more 
upon the metaphysical filaments among them than the value 
of a string of alternating beads of gold and i)earl depends 
upon the string. The figure has a momentary illustrative 
force but is very inadequate. Emerson lives, still speaks ' 
pertinently of our current affairs, and tomorrow we shall 
still find him conmienting with equal pertinency on tomor- 
row's afi^airs. To know him is not mere knowledge. It is 
an experience; for he is a dynamic jpersonality, addressing 
the will, the emotions, the imagination, no less than the in- 
tellect. His value escapes the merely intellectual appraiser. 
Analysis cannot deal properly with his pungent wit — ^it 
must be savored; nor with the impetus that he gives to the 
will — it must be felt; nor with the purgation and serene 



viii INTRODUCTION 

rapture of the mind towards which his noble discipline 
tends — this rapture must be attained as a state of grace 
by imitation of those who have attained it, by hfelong inter- 
course with men whose tone and habit of life is noble. 



Since we are to consider him primarily as an unspent^ 
^force_in our own times, what it most concerns us to Inquire 
about him is what he can do for us. If we approach him 
with that question, we need not tarry long over bio- 
graphical details, interesting and rewarding as they may be 
to the student of literary history We pretty well simi up 
his external career when we say that he was a New Eng- 
lander of Boston, where he was bom in 1803, and of Con- 
cord, where he died in 1882, after a studious life of irre- 
proachable purity, dignity, and simplicity becoming the 
descendant of several generations of New England gentle- 
men and scholars. His formal education he received at the 
Boston Latin School and at Harvard College, from which 
he was graduated in 1821, with a well-formed bias towards 
an intellectual life. The son of a Unitarian minister, he 
inherited an ethical impulse which directed him to the 
Harvard Divinity School in 1825-6. In 1829 he was ap- 
pointed pastor of the Second Unitarian Church of Boston. 
He was married in the same year to Ellen Tucker, who 
died two years later, leaving him a sweet and imfading 
memory of her fragile loveliness. After he had served his 
parish acceptably for three years, he felt obliged to an- 
nounce, in 1832, that he was no longer able to administer 
the sacrament of communion in the general sense of his con- 
gregation, and resigned his charge. In December of that 
year he visited Europe and made acquaintance with -three 
or four men whose residence in Europe constituted for him 
the chief reason for going abroad: Landor in Italy, Carlyle 
at Craigenputtock, and Coleridge and Wordsworth in Eng- 
land. He returned to America in October 1833, and in the 
following year settled permanently in Concord. In 1835 he 
married his second wife, Lydia Jackson. For three .or 
four years he preached with some regularity in various pul- 



/ ' INTRODUCTION ix 

pits, but he gradually abandoned the church for the lyceum, 
which invited him as far west as Wisconsin and Illinois. He 
made a second visit to England in 1848. He was an active 
participant in the anti-slavery movement. But, for the 
most part, barring his winter lecturing tours and an occa- 
sional excursion to dehver a conmiencement address or a 
Phi Beta Kappa oration, he hved placidly in Concord, read- 
ing, meditating, writing, editing the short-lived Transcen- 
dental BwX, looking amusedly askance upon the Brook 
>■ Farm experiment, and walking and talking with his 
famous fellow-villagers, the Aleotts, the Hawthomes, 
Margaret Puller, Ellery Channing, and Thoreatu 

What ferment of radical thought went on beneath the de- 
corous exterior of that quiet scholar^s Ufe we know with 
remarkable fullness and accuracy. From early boyhood 
Emerson kept a journal — a habit, in his case, denoting a 
mind disposed to make unusual exactions of the "hypocritic 
Daj^." At first, he is much occupied with what he has read 
or proposes to read; but presently his note-book becomes a 
kind of storehouse for mellowing the fruits of his daily medi- 
tations, and an experimental garden for planting the seeds 
of new thoughts gathered on his intellectual adventures. 
The Journals, now published in twelve volumes, give us an 
invaluable commentary upon the long-familiar essays, and 
they enrich greatly our sense of the personality behind 
them. Especially they illuminate the turning point in 
Emerson's hfe, when he abandoned the pulpit and became a 
wholly free thinker and speaker. With their help, one per- 
ceives that for years before the open break, the inner eman- 
cipation had been proceeding. One observes the young 
thinker expanding beyond the formulas of his parish, reach- 
ing out towards the life of his nation, feeling his way into the 
higher spirit of his times, daily becoming more eager to ex- 
change messages and compare visions with the leaders of 
his generation. 

It is a vulgar error of our day to think of Emerson and 
his friends as hving in a rude and mentally poverty-stricken 
era. In his formative period, say from 1820 to 1832, 
society around the Golden Gate and along the southern 



INTRODUCTION ^ -^ ■/ 

largin of Lake Michigan was indeed in a somewhat more 

rimitive state than at present. But in compensation, such * j 

ivilized society as the country ix)ssessed was concentrated . 

I a smaller geographical area. To reside in Boston or New- 

ork was not then, as now, to live on the rim but at the ^ 

snter of population, within reach of the molding pressure 

I all the great Americans of one's time. The "moment/* v^ 

irthermore, was peculiarly rich in the presence of eminent ^ 

len who had been shaped by the Revolution, and m the f^^^ 

resence of men who were to become eminent in the move- ^^ 

lent which led to the Civil War. To a young man of Emer- ' ,^ ^**, 

m's quality, the period of the Adamses, Jefferson, Ran- ^^^ 

olph, and Jackson, the period of Webster, Clay, Calhoun, ^^ ^ 

verett, and Garrison, was not a dull period, not a dead ^ ^ 

iterval, but a most stirring and exciting time between two Govern* 

50ch-making crises, with the thunder of a political Niagara J^'y raj 

k one's back, and the roar of wild rapids ahead. The ^yih. 

r was full of promise and of peril and of conflicting meas- ^^ ^ei\ 

res for avoiding the one and fulfilling the other. ^oj:^^ p 

Politically-minded men, the Jacksons, the ClayB, the Cal- Emersoi 

)uns, brought to the problems of the hour political solu- '^^ %e 

ons. But the more sensitive spirits among the younger ' ^^ral refoi 

meration in New England had already experienced a cer- ' ^ Diorafa ^ 

lin enaction against the political faith and enthusiasms of ^^i^snasce 

leir fathers. Already they heard the ominous creaking of ^^ that ei 

smocratic machinery under the manipulation of unskilful ^"^^questi 

id unscrupulous hands. To them it began to appear that ^ towards 

le next great improvement in the condition of society must ^ Jo co^^i^ 

jpend less upon the alteration of laws and institutions I^.^'^ speak 

lan upon the intellectual and moral regeneration of men. ^^Jaufl^r^/ 

he new movement was genuinely Puritan by its inwardness, ^ it. lyjj^x 

^ its earnest passion for cleansing the inside of the cup, ''^^lisjfea/ 

id by its protest against external powers which thwarted ^ under th 

• retarded the efforts of the individual soul to move for- . ^^Hato* 

ard and upward by light from within. Looking back in mi/^^ Vims: 

^ over the multifarious projects for "the salvation of the Poleon, Co^vJ^ 

orld" unfolded by reformers in his part of the country, ^^^^^^ 

merson remarks: 'There was in all the practical activities %in \I^y 

\ New England, for the last quarter of a century, a grad- !i|iia| aiL.. ^ 

^""6 such 



INTRODUCTION xi 

ual withdrawal of tender consciences from the social organ- 
ization. There is observable throughout, the contest be- 
tween mechanical and spiritual methods, but with a steady 
tendency of the thoughtful and virtuous to a deeper belief 
and reliance on spiritual facts." 

Those who place their reliance on spiritual facts have 
always been thought a Uttle queer and rather dangerous by 
those who do not. Nor can it be denied that the radical 
protestantism of the Puritans, which Emerson inherited, 
has contained from the time of Wycliff an anarchical germ, 
a latent suspicion of church and state, a tendency towards 
"coming out," till one shall stand alone in utter freedom 
and count for one and nothing more. It is hardly possible 
to exaggerate the individualism which characterized the 
movement in New England. For Emerson above all, the 
very rapture of the time rose from its challenge to a per- 
fectly independent, a perfectly fearless, scrutiny and testing 
of received values in every field — rehgion, philosophy, 
morals, poUtics, hterature and art. ^ 

Emerson was preserved from the fanaticism of a secession 
from "the social organization" partly by his culture. A 
moral reformation which imdertakes to investigate the bases 
of morals will develop and transform itself into an intellec- 
tual renascence as soon as those who are conducting it per- 
ceive that everything in heaven and earth has a bearing on 
moral questions. Emerson discovered early that the first 
step towards thinking greatly and freely on moral matters 
is to consult the world's accumulated wisdom. Hasty 
writers speak of his **]aunty'' attitude towards the past. If 
he is jaunty about the past, it is because he is very familiar 
with it. What impresses the thoughtful student of his jour- 
nals is his steady effort to hold himself and his contempo- 
raries imder the searching cross-lights of human experience. 
He reads Plato, Cicero, Hafiz, Confucius, Buddha, Mahomet, 
Dante, Montaigne, Milton, Voltaire, Kant, Goethe, Na- 
poleon, Coleridge, Carlyle, because that, he finds, is the 
effective way to set his own intelligence free, and because 
freedom, he finds^ means ability to move at ease and as an 
equal among such minds as these. 



xii INTRODUCTION 

But Emerson was also preserved from e x cessive ini£:dd- 
ualism.by a passion which, properIy~elevated an J directed, ' 
inay be a young .man's guardian angel, the passion of am- 
bitira. "All young persons," he observes, "thirst tor a real 
CTstence for a real object, — for something great and good 
which they shall do with their heart. Meanwhile they all 
pack gloves, or keep books, or travel, or draw indentures, or 
cajole old women." By habitual imaginative association 
with great men, he had assimilated their thoughts and vir- 
tues, and had accustomed himself to look forward with an 
almost Miltonic assurance to playing a part above the 
ordinary in the hfe of his coimtry. At the age of twenty- 
one he is sketching a series of papers on the unproyement 
of the nation. He thinks the demand for a moral education 
the best sign of the times, and deems the exploration of the 
field a task fit for a new Columbus. He queries whether it 
were not an "heroic adventure" for him to "insist on being 
a popular speaker." And with perceptible elation at the 
prospect he concludes: "To address a great nation risen 
from the dust and sitting in absolute judgment on the 
merits of men, ready to hear if any one offers good coimsel, 
may rouse the ambition and exercise the judgment of a 



man." 




II 

There is some dispo^tion at present to look upon Emer- 
son's ambition as extravagant and to regard his work i& a 
closed chapter in the intellectual life of America. It is even 
asserted that he never much affected the thinking of his 
countrymen. Says a recent writer, "What one notices about 
him chiefly is his lack of influence upon the main stream 
of American thought, such as it is. He had admirers and 
even worshippers, but no apprentices." But this judgment 
will not stand examination. Emerson had Thoreau for an 
apprentice; and between them they established relations 
with the natural world, which successive poet-naturalists 
have maintained and broadened to the dimensions of a 
national tradition. He had ^Vhitman for a disciple; and a 
large part of what passes with us as poetry today is ulti- 



INTRODUCTION xiii 

mately traceable to their inspiration. He left the imprint 
of his spirit upon Loj^eU, who said, "There is no man living 
to whom, as a writer, so many of us feel and thankfully 
acknowledge so great an indebtedness for ennobhng im- 
pulses." Whatever is finely academic, highbred, and dis- ^' 
tinguished in our critical literature today has felt the in- 
fluence of Emerson. "To him," according to Lowell, "more 
than to all other causes together did the young martyrs 
of our civil war owe the sustaining strength of thoughtful 
heroism that is so touching in every record of their lives." 
By his aid innumerable clergymen have found a way to 
translate the message of ancient scriptures into the language 
of modern men. Every American who pretends to know 
anything whatever of the American classics has at one time 
or another read the "Essays"; and the "idealism" which is 
thought to be characteristic of the American people is most 
readily formulated in a half dozen of his "familiar quota- 
tions," which every one knows, whether he has read a line 
of Emerson or not. Directly and indirectly Emerson prob- 
ably did as much as any other writer in our history to 
establish what we mean by "a good American"; and that, 
in the long run, is the most important sort of influence that 
can be exerted by any writer in any coimtry. 

That his influence abroad has been considerable may be 
briefly suggested by the reminder that he touched deeply 
such various men as Carlyle, Matthew Arnold, Nietzsche, 
and M. Maeterlinck. When Arnold visited America in 
1883, he lectured on Emerson, on whom thirty years earlier 
he had written a sonnet of ardent admiration and homage. 
The lecture, the fruit of his ripest critical reflection, was 
not altogether satisfactory to his American audience. It 
impressed them as quite inadequately appreciative of their 
chief literary luminary. For Arnold very firmly declared 
that Emerson is not to be ranked with the great poets, nor 
with the great writers of prose, nor with the great makers 
of philosophical systems. These limitations of Emerson's 
power are commonly quoted as if detraction were the main 
burden of Arnold's message. As a matter of fact they are 
preliminary to bis deliberate and remarkable declaration 



^/ 



3dv INTRODUCTION 

that in his judgment Emerson's Essays are the most im^i 
portant work done in prose in our language during the nine- 
teenth century. This is high praise from an exacting critic 
who was little given to the use of superlatives in any case, 
least of all in the case of American authors. 

For what merit does Emerson deserve this preeminent 
place? Because, says Arnold, in a phrase full of significance, 
because ''he is the friend and aider of those who would hve 
in the spirit/' Let us unfold a httle the implications of 
this phrase and make its application more precise. Impor* 
tant as Emerson may have been to yoimg Englishmen in 
the first half of the last century, he was still more important 
to young Americans. Helpful as he may become to Euro- 
pean minds, he will always remain peculiarly the friend and 
aider of those who would live in the spirit amid an environ- 
ment which, as is generally thought, tends powerfully to 
confirm on the one hand the hard and merely practical 
genius of the Yankee and, on the other hand, the narro^v 
and inflexible righteousness of the merely traditional Puri- 
tan, the Puritan who feels no longer the urgency and pro- 
gressive force of new moral Hfe within him. To the pos- 
terity of Franklin and Edwards, Emerson is the destined 
and appropriate counsellor because he brings them imdi- 
minished the vital force of their great traditions, while at 
the same time he emancipates them from the ''dead hand," 
the cramping and lifeless part of their past. To children 
of the new world, Emerson is a particularly inspiring friend, 
because with deep indigenous voice he frees them from im- 
manly fear of their elders, Hfts from their minds the over- 
awing prestige of Europe, liberates the powers and faith of 
the individual man and makes him at home in his own time 
and place. 

A great part of our lives, as we all recognize in what we 
call our educational period, is occupied with learning how to 
do and to be what others have been and have done before us. 
We come abreast of our predecessors by imitating them, 
and are grateful to the masters when they reveal to us their 
secrets, to the older men when they give us the benefit of 
their experience. But presently we discover that the world 



^ INTRODUCTION 



XV 



18 changing around us, and that the secrets of the masters \ 
and the experience of our elders do not wholly suffice — / 
much though they aid us — to establish us eflfectively in our \ 
younger world. We discover within us needs, aspirations, ; 
powers of which the generation that educated us seems im- \ 
aware, or towards which it appears to be indifferent, un-/ 
sympathetic, or even actively hostile. We perceive gradu- 
ally or with successive shocks of surprise that many things 
which our fathers declared were true and satisfactory are 
not at all satisfactory, are by no means true, for us. Then it 
dawns upon us, perhaps as an exhilarating opportunity, per- 
haps as a grave and sobering necessity, that in a little while 
we ourselves shall be the elders, the responsible generation. 
Our salvation in the day when we take conmoand will de- 
pend, we are constrained to believe, upon our disentangle- 
ment from the Imnber of heirlooms and hereditary devices, 
and upon the discovery and free wise use of our own fac- 
ulties. The vital part of education begins in the hour when 
consciousness of self-dependence breaks upon the mind. ^ 
That is the hour for Emerson. "" 

Hft ftppftfljfljnjmfnldjng DMn ds because he is prft ff>"^^ly 

i n sj^h E athy wit^^ fi??*^ Htftdf^n ffpnt Fy this p^^^"^^ ^^ 

ity but to bring all reppyts to. thg.tgst of^SEgjiBnce^ The 
mt^dem spirit i s first of n\\jiJTCo npinT open on all sides to 
the influx"orTrutli. But freedom is not its only character- 
istic. The modem spirit is marked furth er^^ an active^ 
curiosity which grows by what it ^eeds upon, and goes ever 
inquinng''fSf"Trester and soimder information, not content 
till it has the best information to be had anywhere. But 
since it seeks the best, it is, by necessity, also a critical 
spirit, constantly sifting, discriminating, rejecting, and hold- 
ing fast that which is good, only till that which is better is 
within reach. This endless quest, when it becomes central 
in a life, requires labor, requires pain, requires a measure 
of courage; and so the modem spirit, with its other vir- 
tm^f IS an heroic spirit. As a reward for difficulties gal- 
lantly undertaken, the gods bestow on the modem spirit a 
wind of eternal youth with unfailing powers of recuperation 



\ I 



xvi INTRODUCmON 

and growth. This spirit— free, actively curious, upward* 
striving, critical, courageous, and self-renewing — Emerson 
richly possesses; and that is why he is so happily qualified 
to be a counsellor of youth in the period of intellectual 
emancipation. 

There are many prophets abroad in the land today, 
offering themselves as emancipators, who have only very 
partially comprehended their task. By the incompleteness 
of their message they bring the modem spirit itself into 
disrepute. They understand and declare that the modem 
spirit is free and curious. They fail to recognize that it is 
also critical and upward-striving. When the well-born soul 
discards "old clothes," it seeks instinctively for fresh 
raiment; but these Adamites would persuade it to rejoice 
in nakedness and seek no further. They know that man is 
an animal; but it escapes their notice that man is an 
animal constituted and destined by his nature to make pil- 
grimages in search for a shrine, and to worship, till he finds 
it, the Unknown God. Because they understand so ill the 
needs and cravings of man, they go about eagerly hurrying 
him from a predicament into a disaster. They concave 
that they have properly performed the emancipative func- 
tion when they have cut the young generation loose from 
the old moorings, and set it adrift at the mercy of wind 
and tide. 

It is these partial liberators who produce in our yoimg 
people that false and bewildering sense of illumination, so 
eloquently described by John Henry Newman. Says that 
penetrating analyst of modem hbertinism: "When the mind 
throws off as so much prejudice what it has hitherto held, 
and, as if waking from a dream, begins to realize to its 
imagination that there is no such thing as law and the 
transgression of law, that sin is a phantom, and punishment 
a bugbear, that it is free to an, free to enjoy the world 
and the flesh; and still further, when it does enjoy them, 
and reflects that it may think and hold just what it will, 
that 'the world is all before it where to choose,' and what 
system to build up as its own private persuasion; when 
this torrent of wilful thoughts rushes over and inundates 



1 



INTRODUCTION xvii 

it, who will deny that the fruit of the tree of knowledge, 
or what the mind takes for knowledge, has made it one of 
the gods, with a sense of expansion and elevation, — an in- 
toxication in reaUty, still, so far as the subjective state of 
the mind goes, an illumination?" 

The true emancipator, the man who has entered fully 
into the modem spirit, is always a reconstructionist. The 
enlargement of mind which he oiBfers is always, to modify 
shghtly the words of Newman, an enlargement not of tumult 
and intoxication, but of clearer vision and fruitful peace. 
In our Civil War slaves set free by proclamation flung up 
their caps and shouted with a vague joy. But shortly 
afterwards, we are told, many of them returned to their 
old masters and sought re-employment at their former 
tasks. So httle was their undirected freedom worth. The 
true liberator strikes off the old shackles but immediately 
he suggests new service, a fuller use of our powers. He 
cuts us loose from the old moorings; but then he comes 
aboard like a good pilot, and while we trim our sails, he 
takes the wheel and lays our course for a fresh voyage. His 
message when he leaves us is not, "Henceforth be master- 
less," but "Bear thou henceforth the sceptre of thine own \y 
control through life and the passion of hfe." 

III /I, . . . 

Religious emancipation as conducted by Emerson makes 
a man not less but more religious. It frees the restless mod- 
em soul from ancient sectarian fetters, from ceremonial 
that has become empty, and from the Utter of meaningless 
creeds. But straightway it re-establishes the soul in a new 
doctrine of "continuous revelation" and in works and con- 
duct proper to those who have been freshly inspired. There 
is an element that looks like mystical experience imderlying 
this fundamental part of Emerson's religious teaching. But 
since mysticism constitutes a difficulty and an obstacle to 
the average modem mind, let us reduce as much as possible 
the irrational or superrational element. Let us explain 
what we can. 

Emerson's belief in continuous revelation is clearly ascrib-* ^ 



xviii INTRODUCTION 

able in large measure to the breadth of his spiritual culture. 
Throughout his life he was a student^of the religions of the 
world. With free and open mind he compared the teachings 
of Plato, Ck)nfuciu8, Jesus, Buddha, Mahomet, seeking the 
spirit beneath the letter transmitted by each. This com- 
parison did not bring him to the hasty thinker's conclusion 
that the Bible of Christians is an uninspired book but rather 
to the cenclu^on that all the bibles are inspired books* 
The further he pressed his studies in religion, in philosophy, 
in poetry, the more obvious it became to him that elevated 

•^thought and noble emotion are not the exclusive endow- 
v^ment of any special period or person but are common to 
the highest representatives of all great peoples in aR the 
great ages. 

How account for that imdeniable and really very inspirit-* 
ing fact? Emerson explained it by what might be called 
the law of the conservation of spiritual energy. The mortal 
forms, momentarily fixed in the shape of Plato or Confucius, 
decay and are dispersed, yet their elemental force, as modern 
science teaches us, is not destroyed but resumed and con- 
served in the all-encompassing energy of the universe, and 
is recreated forever and ever in new 8hax)es of men and 
things. In like fashion, as it appeared to Emerson, the 
thought and feding of men, since thought and feeling are 
also forms of energy, must be resimied and conserved in- 
destructibly in the general r^ervoir of moral energy, the 

1/^ "over-soul," from which they flow again into individuals, 

^^ generations, races, with such sustaining recurrence as the 
vernal sap observes. 

The vividness of his-^beli^ in this inflowing power may^be 
ascribed to certain personal experiences, emotional and 
exalting, for which the entire discipline of his life had pre- 
pared hdm. From his youth up he had conversed in his 
reading with strong-souled men, with the saints, heroes, and 
sages. He had meditated on their counsels not occasionally 

^. but daily, persistently, for hours together, till the bounds 
between their minds and his disappeared, and their thoughts 
actually became his thoughts and their temper his temper. 
It is a discipline which breaks down the walls of personality 



INTRODUCTION xix 

and merges the individual with the over-soul. By books, he 
writes in his journal in 1824 at the age of twenty-one, "my 
memory goes back to a past immortality, and I aJmost 
realize the perfection of a spiritual intercourse which gains 
all the good, and lacks all the inconvenience and disgust 
of close society of imperfect beings. We are then likest to 
the image of God, for in this grateful rapidity of thought 
a thousand years become one day." 

A mind thus stored and sensitized will respond now and 
then to an apparently slig ht stim ulus with an extraordinary 
excitement and sometEmg in the nature of "vision'' and 
"illumination." /The young man reads in quiet solitude oSSj 
of the more poetical dialogues of Plato, or he walks in flow-' 
ering fields communing with his thoughts, or he lifts his 
bead from his sick-bed at sunrise and beholds "the spotless 
orange light of the morning streaming up from the dark hills 
into the wide Universe." Suddenly, to him unaccountably, \ 
there is a profound stirring of his emotional deeps. A sense 
of sublimity fills his consciousness. His will appears to him 
godlike, invincible. He is elate with benign resolution. In 
a delisted ecstasy he feels streaming through his being 
eternal forces, all the wisdom and all the virtues that have 
ever been in the world. However we may attempt to explain, 
or to explain away, his sensations, he himself is incontro- 
vertibly convinced that he has been visited and breathed 
upon by a power-not-himself . He has been b ut a passive 
vj^l filled to the brim by an inrush of energy froin the 
Ovef-Soul, from the circumfluent seas of moral power. 

Such^inspiration, Emerson holds, is nat ural t o man^ It 
is probably open to everyone who will subject himself to the 
requisite preliminary discipline — who will live steadily 
with such thoughts as Emerson entertained. Record of 
these visitations one may find here and there in the Journals 
in such statements as this: "I am surrounded by messengers 
of God who send me credentials day by day" — statements 
which an intelligent reader may accept as substantially true 
and essentially verifiable by the method just indicated. 

This personal and direct relationship which he cultivated 
with the Over-Soul had a two-fold effect. On the one hand. 



XX INTRODUCTION 

it quite indisposed him to render allegiance to intermediate 
powers. Thus he declares in a poem of 1833, ''Self-Be- 
liance'': 

Henceforth, please God, forever I for^ 
The yoke of men's opinions. I will be 
light-hearted as a bird, and live with God« 
I find him in the bottom of my heart, 
I hear continually his voice therein. 

^n the other hand, this direct relationslup with thejpurce 
of nioral power made him iojrfully obedient to the impulses 
of what he at various times designated as the heavenly 
vision', the divine necessity, or the overlord of his aovljA 
certain levity, almost a frivolity, which he exhibits now 
and thenlnSlie presence of creeds, churches, pious organi- 
zations, is actually the consequence of his entire reverence 
in the presence of every immistakable manifestation of 
spiritual life. ) Like his friend Carlyle, he feels that the 
religious edifices of the day are become uninhabitable; the 
religious spirit is seeking a new house. "Religion," he re- 
marks, "does not seem to me to tend now to a cultus as 
heretofore but to a heroic life. We find extreme difficulty in 
conceiving any church, any liturgy, any rite that would be 
genuine." 

This sounds like a radical utterance. It is radical with 
the root and branch thoroughness of Emerson's inherited 
Puritanism, a vital Puritanism urgent with fresh power, 
impatient of a corrupted tradition and a conformity that 
withholds one from the living truth. The tendency of the 
traditional religious culture, he criticizes as indifferent to 
aesthetic development; as narrowly and incompletely moral; 
and as averse from the wide reaches of living truth which 
are open to the modem mind in the domains of science. He 
holds that the founder of the faith in which most of his 
countrymen were bred was indeed a "pure beam of truth," 
whose ethical utterances cannot be overprized, yet that he 
exhibited a "very exclusive and partial development of the 
moral element. ... A perfect man should exhibit all the 
traits of humanity, and should expressly recognize intd-' 



INTRODUCTION xxi 

lectual nature, [Italics mine.] Socrates I call a complete, 
universal man." 
That Emerson's is the radicalism of a conservative, bent 

i^Hiii I ['It • ' 

upon holding fast that which is good, is indicated by many 
other references to the character and teaching of Jesus, to 
whom he returns again and again with perceptions quick* 
ened and sharpened by his secular culture. "How strange," 
he exclaims, "that Jesus should stand at the head of history, 
the first character of the world without doubt, but the im- 
likeliest of all men, one would say, to take such a rank in 
the world." Approaching the subject from a quite different 
quarter, he says, "I think the true poetry which mankind 
craves is that Moral Poem of which Jesus chanted to the 
ages stanzas so celestial,. yet only stanzas." And finally 
from still another angle: /"The heart of Christianity is the 
heart of all philosophy ."J 

IV 

Much has been written of Emerson's philosophical in- 
debtedness to Kant and his German followers, and to Cole- 
ridge and Carlyle and Madame de Stael, who were interme- 
diaries between the German and the New England trans- 
cendentalists. It is not in my power, happily it is not much 
to our purpose, to enter into the details of this discussion. 
Briefly speaking, it may be said that the German thinkers 
and their interpreters by their combined influence did 
imdoubtedly strengthen Emerson's instinctive reaction 
against the dry and incomplete rationalism of the eighteenth 
century and against the Utilitarians of the nineteenth 
century, who to his nostrils brought a peculiarly repug- 
nant odor of "profit and loss." But Emerson was no sys- 
tematic student of mejtaphj'sics, and most of such general 
impulses as he was capable of receiving from the German 
system-makers, he had perhaps encountered in Plato and 
Berkeley and the seventeenth century divines before he had 
much cultivated his German. He ultimately made his way 
through Goethe, but he never became intimately attached 
to him or even quite reconciled to him, finding him and his 
aesthetic friends, deficient in "moral life." 



xxii INTRODUCTION 

What is still more to the point, the vital features of 
Emerson's philosophy are due less immediately to his read* 
ing than to that religious illumination of which we have 
already spoken. He arrived at the center of his beliefs by 
ixintuition. From the mechanical conception of the universe 
wfiicF reduced Carlyle almost to despair, Emerson emanci- 
pated himself, or rather he perfected his emancipation, by 
a critical examination of his own experience. This scrutiny 
disclosed a real world, the world of things, moved by physi- 
cal energies in accordance with the laws of things. But it 
disclosed also an equally real world; the world of ideas, 
moved by moral energies in accordance with the laws, per- 
haps less clearly understood, of ideas. One world is asso- 
ciated with the other as the eye is associated with seeing; 
yet seeing, not the instrument of sight, is the sovereign mat- 
ter. An important continuator of the Emersonian influence 
in our times. Professor Irving Babbitt, takes as the point of 
departure for his own developments these lines from Emer- 
son's Ode to W. H. Channing: 

There are two laws discrete, 

Not reconciled, — 

Law for man, and law for thing; 

The last builds town and fleet. 

But it runs wild, and doth the man unking. 

As philosopher, Emerson conceives it his chief business 
to explore the "law for man," to formulate it, and to ob- 
tain recognition of it as the supreme authority in human 
relationships. His entire effort aims at establishing human 
independence and a human mastership. Man Hberates him- 
] self and exchanges servitude for mastery in proportion as he 
. obeyB the "law for man" and learns to make the "law for 
things" serve him. In thus firmly insisting upon a radical 
distinction between the two parallel planes of experience, 
Emerson is in accord with the wisdom of the ages and at 
variance with the folly of the times, which tended to ob- 
literate distinctions and, surrendering to a physical fatalism, 
to accept the law for things as also the law for man. Those 
who still contend for the identity of the two laws, like to 
speak of their view a^ "reaUstic." It is a word to conjure 



INTRODUCTION xxiii 

with. Emerson's view will prevail against theirs only when 
it is finally established as more realistic than theirs, as more 
accurately and adequately deschpitive of the facts of 
nature^ the experience of men. 

It is important to note that what Emerson contends for 
as the realistic view is the *^twnnf^" nf the universe. He 
does not oppose a ph3rsical monism with a spiritual monism 
but with a fairly clean-cut dualism. It is a man asserting 
the equal realness but radical dissimilarity of things and 
ideas who remarks in his Journal, "Realist seems the true 
name for the movement party among our Scholars here. 
I at least endeavor to make the exchange evermore of a 
reality for a name." When the "sohd men" of his day 
complain that his way of thinking neglects the fundamental 
facts, he replies that their way of thinking neglects the 
hypaethral facts, but that his way of thinking takes due 
cognizance of both: "Turnpike is one thing and blue sky 
another." "The poet complains that the solid men leave out 
the sky." This is the sunny mockery of one who was both a 
poet and a sohd man. Iknerson wove a net for casting in 
fathomless seas and brought home his catches by ways un- 
known to the fishermen; but this did not prevent his rais- 
ing good apples in his Concord orchard and taking the 
customary road to market. 

His philosophical emphasis is, however, of course upon the 
order of facts most likely to be ignored by the "solid men"; 
and because of his emphasis upon this order of facts we 
speak of him as an idealist and as a great fountain of Amer- 
ican idealism. What idealism meant to him is expressed in 
his Journal in words which Moli^re's cook might have 
understood: "We are idealists whenever we prefer an idea 
to a sensation. . . . The physical sciences are only well 
studied when they are explored for ideas. . . . The book 
is always dear which has made us for moments idealists. 
That which can dissipate this block of earth into shining 
ether is genius. I have no hatred to the roimd earth and 
its grey mountains. I see well enough the sandhill oppo- 
site my window. Their phenomenal being I no more dis- 
pute than I do my own. . . . Religion makes us idealists. 



xxiv INTRODUCTION 

Any strong passion does. The best, the happiest moments 
of life, are these delicious awakenings of the higher powers 
and the Treverential withdrawing of nature before its 
God.y . V We are all aiming to be idealists, and covet the 
society of those who make us so, as the sweet singer, the 
orator, the ideal painter." 



It is commonly said that Emerson's interest in morals is 
his inheritance from the Puritans. In this connection it is 
interesting to find him in the Journals connecting himself 
consciously with the loftiest Puritan of the seventeenth 
century, John Milton, of whom he writes: "Milton de- 
scribes himself to Diodati as enamored of moral perfection. 
He did not love it more than I." Here indeed is a visible 
Hnk in what we have grown accustomed to call the Puritan 
tradition. But, as a matter of fact, were Emerson and 
Milton more in love with moral perfection than Spenser, 
or was Spenser more in love with it than Dante, or Dante 
than Augustine, or Augustine than the Emperor Marcus 
AureUus, or the Emperor than Socrates? There is a great 
community of minds enamored of moral perfection. It is 
no novel passion originating in New England or among the 
English Puritans. How explain the antiquity of the tradi- 
tion? Dante, following Aristotle, explains it by declaring 
that "all things, by an intuition of their own nature, seek 
perfection." Einerson then, rediscovered wha^ -Afktotle 
had observed, that the impulse to self-perfectioD is juJfceB- 
dency in the constitution of man. 

In America, the most important predecessor of Emerson 
in this rediscovery was a free-thinking man of the world, 
entirely out of sjonpathy with strait-laced and stiff-necked 
performers of barren rites and observances. I refer to the 
greatest liberalizing force in eighteenth-century America, 
Benjamin Franklin. Was he a Puritan? No one thinks of 
him as such, yet in truth he represents the normal reaction 
of a radical protestantism, of a living Puritanism, to an 
"Age of Enlightenment." By the courage of his moral 
realism he prepares the way for Emerson. He, too, begins 



INTRODUCTION xxv 

his independent studies after a revolt against ecclesiastical 
authority, as narrow and unrealistic. The course of his 
emancipation is set forth in the Autobiography, where he 
relates his disgust at a sermon on the great text in Phil- 
lipians: "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, 
honest, just, pure, lovely, or of good report, if there be any 
virtue, or any praise, think on these things." In expounding 
this text, the clergyman confined himself to enjoining scru- 
pulous Sabbath observances, respect to ministers, etc., etc. 
"These might," says Franklin, "be all good things; but, 
as they were not the kind of good things that I expected 
from the text, I despaired of ever meeting with them from 
any other, was disgusted, and attended his preaching no 
more." 

Franklin attended that preaching no more. But note 
what follows, apparently as the consequence of his break 
with the church: "It was about this time that I conceived 
the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfec- 
tion. I wished to live without committing any fault at any 
time, and to conquer all that either natural inclination, 
custom or company might lead me into." Everyone will 
recall how Franklin drew up his table of thirteen moral 
virtues, and how he studied the means for putting them 
into effect. But for us the most significant feature of this 
enterprise and of his proposed Art of Virtue was the real- 
istic spirit in which they were conceived, the bold attempt 
to ground the virtues upon experience rather than upon 
authority, the assertion of the doctrine, "that vicious 
actions are not hurtful because they are forbidden, but 
forbidden because they are hurtful, the nature of man 
alone considered/' 

Emerson as moralist takes up the work which Frank- 
lin's political duties prevented him from carrying out. He 
repeats Franklin's revolt in the name of sincerity, truth, 
actuality. "Whoso would be a man," he declares in "Self- 
Reliance," "must be a nonconformist. He who would 
gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of 
goodness, but must explore if it be goodness." He does 
not take up the virtues so methodically and exhaustively 



/ 



xxvi INTRODUCTION 

as Franklin does. That is mainly because he conceives mor- 
ality to lie in a right condition and attitude of the whole self, 
from which particular acts will result with a kind of in- 
stinctive and inevitable rightness. "The less a man thinks 
or knows about his virtues," he says in "Spiritual Laws," 
"the better we like him." He concerns himself less with 
particular acts than many less exacting moralists^ because 
he demands as the evidence of goodness that one's en- 
tire hfe shall be "an alms, a battle, a conquest, a med- 
icine." The grand business of the moral explorer, as 
he imderstands it, is to push past conduct to the springs of 
conduct, to blaze a path behind the virtues to that general 
moral power which is the source of aU the virtues. 

There is a familiar saying of Emerson's which would 
epitomize, if it were understood, most of what is important 
in all the Emersonian messages. Taken from its context in 
the essay on "Civilization," it has perhaps been more widely 
quoted than an)rthing else that he uttered. Unfortunately, 
one never hears it quoted with any sense of what it means 
in the thought of Emerson, where its position is absolutely 
central. The saying is this: "Hiic hjvour wagon J bo a st a r ." 
If one asks a man from whose hps it has glibly slipped what 
"Hitch your wagon to a star" means, he replies "Aim high," 
a useful enough maxim of archery, but as a moral precept 
dreadfully trite and unproductive. What Emerson really 
means is: Put, yf^^i^"^^ ^" ^onp-f-^i()Ti vnth j^^^c^^v^i^r""-"" 

Tp t.hp pliyginal ^nrU^Jpf. wflfpr turn ymir miU^ Ipf. taJMm. 

pull vour cara . let the atsoiQspheric. electricity carry ye«r 
words around the world. " That is the wav we are strong, by 
SbHp^ng the misht of the elements," Likewise in the moral 
world, go where the gods are going,,,take the directioa .of 
gll jgood ujen and let them bear you along,^ strike into ^e 
current Qf the ^reat human traditions,. discover the law of 
your, higher nature and act with it. Presently you will 
notice that you are no longer fuming at obstacles and fret- 
ting at your personal impotence but are borne forward like 
one destined!^ 

At just this point, many stem critics have cried out 
against Emerson as a moral teacher, and have charged him 



INTRODUCTION xxvii 

with counselling an optimistic passivity. Emerson bids us 
go with the current. The stem critic snatches at a figure 
and comes away with an error. Have not all the orthodox 
doctors taught that the good man goes against the current? 
Such misapprehension is the penalty for being a poet — 
for not sticking faithfully to the technical jargon. Without 
resorting to that medium, however, it should be possible to 
clear Emerson of the charge of counselling a foolish opti- 
mism, an indiscreet or base passivity. It should, at any 
rate, be possible to clear him in the eyes of any one whose 
morals have, like his, a religious basis — for example, in the 
eyes of the sad and strenuous author of that great hne: 
'7n la ma voluntade e nostra pace — ^In his will is our 
peace.'' The point is, that j]gL^''Rftn ^^^ ""^ "^g^* us to 

to-oZZ^^ndeacies. It is only 
after we have arrived by high thinking at a proud defini- 
tion of man, that we are to take for our motto: 'ILdaieulo 
aj^^ l^hat may b^come-A jnani' It is only after we have dis- 
covered by severe inquisition the instincts of our higher 
nature, that we are to trust our instincts, and follow our 
nature. We are to be confident and passive. Yes: when 
we are doing the will of God. 

What made Emerson's teaching take hold of his contem- 
poraries, what should conmiend it to us today is just its 
imfailingly positive character, the way it supplements our 
gospel of long-suffering by the restoration of classical vir- 
tues. There is a welcome in it for life, even before the qual- 
ity is disclosed: ^' Virtue is u neducated power." There is a 
place in it for manly resistance: "Be as beneficent as the 
suu or the sea, but if your rights as a rational being are 
trenched on, die on the first inch of your territory." There 
is the strong man's relish of difficulty and hostility: "We 
must have antagonisms in the tough world for all the va- 
riety of our spiritual faculties or they will not be bom." 
There is precept for use of the spur: "He that rides his 
hobby gently must always give way to him that rides his 
hobby hard." There is warrant for choosing one's path: 
It is a man's "essential virtue to carry out into action hie 
own dearest ends, to dare to do what he believes and loves. 



xxviu INTRODUCTION 

If he thinks a sonnet the flower and result of the world, let 
him sacrifice all to the sonnet." Even in his definition of 
friendship, Emerson drives at action: ''He is my friend 
who makes me do what I can." It is obvious that he re- 
stores ambition, an aspect of magnanimity, to its proper 
place in the formation of the manly character, ambition 
to bring one's life to its fullest fruit. 

This accounts for his extraordinary emphasis upon the 
virtue of courage: "It may be safely trusted — God will not 
have his work made manifest by cowards." Read from that 
cue, and presently you fancy that all forms of virtue ap- 
peared to him as aspects and phases of courage. He has 
praise for the courage of non-conformity, the courage of in- 
consistency, the courage of veracity, the courage to mix 
with men, the courage to be alone, the courage to treat all 
men as equals — but at this thought, he remembers his 
proud conception of man, his imagination kmdles, and he 
cries: "Shall I not treat all men as gods?" and, elsewhere^ 
"God defend me from ever looking at a man as an animal." 
It sounds like extravagance. It may turn out to be a 
maxim of the higher prudence. Treating men like worms 
has been tried — without particularly gratifying results. 
Why not explore the consequences of assuming that men 
have a nobler destiny? If you are educating a prince, all 
the classical manuals enjoin it upon you to treat him like a 
prince. Why should not this hold of uncrowned sovereigns 
in general? Courage to do these extraordinary thinp 
Emerson learned of his aunt, Mary Moody Emerson, fiho 
taught him in his boyhood to face whatever he feared. 
Courage he praised in his last word on Carlyle, "He never 
feared the face of man." 

Moralists -]^esent.. to us in general t ^ee dist inguishable 
sanctions for the virtuous life, or as Emerson would have 
preferred to call it, the heroic life. They may commend 
conduct as conducive to happiness _in the future world — 
the theological sanctkm. They may, commend it as con- 
ducive to pleasure or happiness or convenience on earth — 
the "iitem" ganofmn Qr finally they may conmiend it as 
in aQCordance with the proper nature of man — the human- 



INTRODUCTION xxix 

^iiLsaiisli^i. This is the position taken by Marcus Aure- 
uusin a passage extolled by Matthew Arnold. Which of 
these is Emerson's sanction? In the essay on "Compensa- 
tion," which he thought one of his prime contributions, he 
argues that divine justice executes itself in this world in 
accordance with inevitable laws. It is essentially the argu- 
ment of Franklin; one is still concerned with reward and 
punishment. But the general tenor of Emerson's Hfe and 
teaching rise above this level. Habitually he speaks in the 
spirit of the Roman Emperor, so deeply appealing to the 
well-born soul: "A third in a manner does not even know 
what he has done, but he is like a vine which has produced 
grapes, and seeks for nothing more after it has once pro- 
duced its proper fruit. As a horse when he has run, a dog 
when he has caught the game, a bee when it has made its 
honey, so a man when he has done a good act, does not call 
out for others to come and see, but he goes on to another 
act, as a vine goes on to, produce again the grapes in 



season." 



VI 



Though Emerson had thought much about the relation 
of the individual to society and to the state, he y^asjiot-ia 
any pj-actical diurnal sense of the WQcd-a^)olitically-jninded 
^man. PnTjf,|1r^Jg^j,^^P f^,ff. nnd nfiifinfoi nf cftyrming mattnof? 

fETlSTtj^diiinCfi ^V^i^>^ oppoalaH ^..^bm^mKifinr. SLXe 

{Eosejybich enatekt the inHividnal .to govern.himself. So far 
as he was concerned, he felt little need of external govern- 
ment. Indeed, like many of the saints and sages, conscious 
that he himself was actuated by the purest internal motives, 
he looked with wary and somewhat jealous eye upon the 
existence of an external controlling power in the state, 
which might be actuated by motives far less pure and, in the 
exercise of its constituted authority, warp him from the bias 
of his soul. In this respect, he was distinctly a child of 
the time-spirit which followed the Revolution and preceded 
the Civil War, that period when the first dire need of a 
powerful union had passed and the second dire need of it 
bad not yet been fully manifested. He could sympathize 



r ry 



INTRODUCTION 






with his friend Thoreau, who withdrew from the social or- 

ganization to the extent of refusing to pay his taxes. But 

Emerson's Yankee common sense preserved him from imi- 

\y/ tating this fanaticism of individualism. He perceived, as 

->. every intelligent lover of freedom does, that a ^d^cent^cog^ 

'VT ,J HeTSved^freedom too much to coquet with anarchy. The 
f^\,'^ imaginative masters of his political speculations, Plato, 
v(W^ / MoM^^fMilton, Burke, Montesquieu, had confirmed him, 
y^-^ \ ftnfSrmore, in the conviction that "politics rest on neces- 
;/j ^,|•Y•(flK^y foundations, and cannot be treated with levity." The 
Ml Jtt^ foundation of government, he recognized, is in the constitu- 
J^ H V ^tion of man: "Every human society wants to be officered 
•^ by the best class, who shall be masters instructed in all the 
^^ if^ great arts of life; shall be wise, temperate, brave, public 
' ^^ men, adorned with dignity and accomplishments." He per- 
ceived that it was no true fimction of the philosopher to 
bring into contempt even imperfect instruments of order 
and liberty. 

Like most Americans, however, he had pretty much Jost 
respect for government by van hereditary ^unuBtocracy. He 
acknowledges the virtues of tBT hereditary principle but 
with a touch of disdain: it has "secured permanence of fam- 
ilies, firmness of customs, a certain external culture and 
good taste; gratified the ear with historic names." Its de- 
fect was its failure to make the laws of nature serve it. 
Nature did not co-operate with the system: "the heroic 
\ father did not surely have heroic sons, and still less heroic 

grandsons; wealth and ease corrupted the race." 

He goes a long way towards accepting the principles of 
the French Revolution. His respect for efficient power 
makes him betray, in "Representative Men," a great ad- 
miration for Napoleon Bonaparte, qualified by grave reser- 
vations. He desires, with Carlyle, to bring forward a 
natural aristocracy, an aristocracy of talent. He would 
like to believe that democracy is the means for recruiting 
that talent, for organizing the superior class by which so- 
ciety needs to be officered. But his study of the tyrannies 
of an "efficient state" administered by Napoleonic officers^ 



INTRODUCTION xxxi 

to whose talents a career was opened, has awakened in him, 
as it never did in Carlyle, a deep suspicion of the "natural 
method/' has put him on a criticism of democracy, which 
is the most valuable element in his political writing. 

Might with right, Emerson never confused as Carlyle 
confused them — hopelessly; as democracies may, at any 
time, under bad leadership, confuse them. ''Our institutions," 
he declares in his 'Tohtics," "though in coincidence with 
the spirit of the age, have not any exemption from the 
practical defects which have discredited other forms. Every 
actual State is corrupt. Oood men must not obey the laws- 
too wM/' His patriotism was free, emancipated. In the 
year when he became of age, 1824, he wrote in his Journal: 
"I confess I am a little cynical on some topics, and when 
a whole nation is roaring Patriotism at the top of its voice, I 
am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and the purity 
of its heart." In his Journal of 1833-6 he wrote: "The 
life of this world has a limited worth in my eyes, and really 
is not worth such a price as the toleration of slavery." He 
cried out at the land-grabbing of the Mexican War. He 
spoke repeatedly between 1837 and 1861 in behalf of free 
speech, in behalf of emancipating the slaves, and in favor 
of violating the Fugitive Slave Law. Against the 
howling of mobs, as Mr. Woodberry shows in an 
admirable summary of his participation in the anti- 
slavery movement, "his civic courage was flawless." He 
interrupted his lecture on Heroism in 1838 to praise the 
brave Lovejoy, "who gave his breast to the bullets of a 
mob, for the rights of free speech and opinion, and died 
when it was better not to live." He received John Brown 
in Concord, and when two years later the law doomed 
him to die, he declared publicly in Boston that the new 
saint would "make the gallows glorious like the cross." 

Efficient nature herself requires to be checked. Where 
is the check to be found? "The wise man is to settle it 
immovably in his mind, that he only is fit to decide on his 
best action; he only is fit to praise it; his verdict is praise 
enough, and as to society, 'their hiss is thine applause'" 
{JoumaU, 1833-6.) The contention of parties cannot be 



\ 



xxxu INTRODUCTION 

trusted to guard the interests of truth. Emerson has no 
naive respect for numbers. He has looked with disillusioned 
eye upon the wisdom of majorities. He confides to his 
Journal, for example, that if Jackson is elected ''we shall 
all feel dirty." He says that if he were unduly in love with 
life, he would attend a Jackson caucus, and "1 doubt not 
the unmixed malignity, the withering selfishness, the impu* 
dent vulgarity, that mark those meetings would speedily 
cure me of my appetite for longevity." Yet despite this 
bitterness, the Jackson party was, as he himself recognized, 
that towards which his own principles and sympathies — 
in theory, broadly popular — should have inclined him. 
Speaking jfor publication, in his essay on ''Politics," he re- 
veals, with less asperity, the fact that he is not captivated 
by either party. The paragraph that follows mi^t have 
been written by a disappointed independent of 1920: 

"The vice of our leading parties in this country ... is 
that they do not i^ant themselves on the deep and neces- 
sary grounds to which they are respectively entitled. . . . 
Of the two great parties which, at this hour, almost share 
the nation between them, I should say that the one has 
the best cause, and the other contains the best men. The 
philosopher, the poet, or the religious man will, of course, 
wish to cast his vote with the democrat, for free-trade, for 
wide suffrage, for the abolition of legal cruelties in the 
penal code, and for facUitating in every manner the access 
of the young and the poor to the sources of wealth and 
power. [My italics.] But he can rarely accept the persona 
whom the so-called popular party proposes to him as rep- 
resentatives of these liberalities. They have not at heart 
the ends which give to the name of democracy what hope 
and \nrtue are in it." 

Possibly Emerson's concern for the "unwashed masses" 
forged a bit ahead of his sympathies as a man of flesh and 
blood. Theoretically, he was not afraid of dirt. Before 
Whitman bade us shun "delicatesse," Emerson had per- 
ceived that the effective democrat must not be a "high 
priest of the kid-glove persuasion." Writing in his Journal 
at the age of thirty-two, he says: "I would not have a 



INTRODUCTION xxxiii 

man dainty in his conduct. Let him not be afraid of being 
besmirched by being advertised in the newspapers, or by 
going into Athenaeums or town-meetings or by making 
speeches in pubhc. Let his chapel of private thoughts be so 
holy that it shall perfume and separate him unto the Lord, 
though he lay in a kennel." . ..L« 

It ought to be possible to feel "inwardly perfumed anoV ^ 
separated unto the Lord" without either showing or feeling y 
that Brahminical spirit of exclusiveness which men like/ 
Holmes and Lowell exhibited, and of which they were ob- 
viously proud. Emer son w aa guite earn estly opposed to 
t.hft fiftlfihrat^H ]^i^i^hy^|msffr7)pRnst^Ti ^.miXlflTnhriHgft As 

Mr. Brownell has finely said: "A constituent of~1iis refine-- 
ment was an instinctive antipathy to ideas of dominance, 
dictation, patronage, caste, and material superiority whose '^ 
essential grossness repelled him and whose ultimate origin 
in contemptuousness — probably the one moral state except 
cravenness that chiefly he deemed ctmtemptible — was plain 
enough to his penetration." Henry Adams suggests, indeed, 
with a touch of characteristic humor, that Emerson, from 
the spiritual altitude of Concord, probably looked down 
on the Brahmins themselves, looked down, for instance, on 
the Adamses, as worldlings. 

Now there is interesting evidence in the Journals that 
Emerson might have looked down on Henry Adams, but 
from a point of view remote from that indicated by Adams: 

"I do not forgive in any man this forlorn pride, as if he 
were an Ultimus Romanorum. I am more American in my 
feelings. This country is full of people whose fathers were 
judges, generals, and bank presidents, and if all their boys 
should give themselves airs thereon and rest henceforth on 
the oars of their fathers' merit, we should be a sad himgry 
generation. Moreover, I esteem it my best birthright that 
our people are not crippled by family and official pride, 
that the best broadcloth coat in the country is put off to put 
on a blue frock, that the best man in town may steer his 
plough-tail or may drive a milk-cart. There is a great deal of 
work in our men, and a false pride has not yet made them 
idle or ashamed. Moreover I am more philosophical than 



xxxiy INTRODUCTION 

to love this retrospect. I believe in the being God, not in 
the God that has been. I work; my fathers may have 
wrought or rested. What have I to do with them, or with 
the Fellatahs, or the great Khan! I know a worthy man 
-who walks the streets with silent indignation as a last of his 
race, quite contemptuously eyeing the passing multitude.'* 

Emerson goes further than that in welcoming the ''new 
man,'' the power without known antecedents. In a notable 
passage of his Journal for 1845, one sees him, as it were, 
shaking off the dust of the house of his fathers, breaking 
out of the old New England, in order to enter America, to 
participate in that national spirit which we know today 
must learn to enfold and assimilate men of all races: 

"I hate the narrowness of the Native American Party. It 
is the dog in the manger. It is precisely opposite to all 
the dictates of love and magnanimity; and therefore, of 
course, opposite to true wisdom. . . . Man is the most 
composite of all creatures. .' . . Well, as in the old burning 
of the Temple at Corinth, by the melting and intermixture 
of silver and gold and other metals a new compound more 
precious than any, called Corinthian brass, was formed; so 
in this continent, — asylum of all nations, — the energy of 
Irish, Germans, Swedes, Poles, and Cossacks, and all the 
European tribes, — of the Africans, and of the Polynesians, 
-^ will construct a new race, a new religion, a new state, a 
new literature, which will be as vigorous as the new Europe 
which came out of the smelting-pot of the Dark Ages, or 
that which earlier emerged from the Pelasgic and Etruscan 
barbarism. La Nature aime les croisements," 

No man who honestly and earnestly contemplates the 
making of a nation out of such heterogeneous elements as 
Emerson here enumerates, no man who truly cherishes the 
potentialities of himian power, wherever they lie, is dis- 
posed to assign to political agencies an undue part in shap« 
ing the product of the melting-pot. Emerson did not. If 
we were to sum up his attitude towards the state in a 
single sentence, it would take some such form as this: The 
State exists for the benefit of all the individuals in it: and 
its stability and its welfare depend primarily on the effort 



INTRODUCTION xxxv 

-All concrete advance towards social 
^generation, he believed, is accomplished by minorities — 
by minorities of one! In a country with a strong inclina- 
tion towards beginning all efforts for moral reformation by 
the election of a president and a secretary, he proposes this 
modest method: ''Count from yourself in order the persons 
that have near relation to you up to ten or fifteen, and 
see if you can consider your whole relation to each without 
squirming. That will be something.'^ Commenting, in 
"Life and Letters in New England," on a socialistic scheme 
for imposing economic salvation on the world from No. 200 
Broadway, he surmises that it would be better to say: "Let 
us be lovers and servants of that which is just, and straight- 
way every man becomes a center of a holy and beneficent 
republic, which he sees to include all men in its law, like that 
of Plato and Christ." Let the great state arch above us, 
but let it beware of pressing too near, lest it crush more 
natural and vital powers — the power of the individual over 
himself; the power of the family, the neighborhood, the 
town-meeting, the local enterprise; the "atmospheric" 
power of culture, the gradual and beneficent pressure of a 
natural society steadily growing stronger by the diffusion of 
science and humane learning. 

The Emersonian doctrine of democratic individualism has 
its defects. In these days it appears rather homely and 
old-fashioned. Yet it has merits towards which one occa- 
sionally turns with nostalgic yearnings, merits which may 
yet restore it to some of its former favor. After many a 
popular election, is it not still the chief available consolation 
to go quietly home and close the door and reflect that the 
wise man "occupies all the space between God and the 
mob?" And in spite of all the allurement of centralized power, 
with its promise of prompt and "nation-wide" progress in 
the sense of the men at Washington, shall we not find in the 
years to come that the preservation of individuality in the 
private citizen and of pride and initiative in the "parish," 
the province, and the separate states, are as vital to the 
health of the far-flung nation as the use of hands and feet? 



xxxvi INTRODUCTION 

vn 

It has ordinarily been assumed and asserted that Emer- 
son was very little developed on the aesthetic side. This 
assumption is intimately associated with two other popular 
errors, which, in the li^t of our examination, we may now 
dismiss. We may first dismiss the popular error which 
holds that the center of his being was ethical; for we have 
seen that the center of his being was religious. We may 
dismiss, also, the popular error of regarding him as a rep- 
resentative of Puritan decadence; for we have seen that he 
represents rather a renascence and fresh flowering of the 
ancient passion for perfection. We think rightly of 
Emerson when we tbink^of him js^ a jiumajiist bent upon 
liberating and developing noTsome But all of the prjoplfly 
Euman powers. "He builds his many-chambered house of 
IHe around a private oratory, because, like every success- 
fully exploring humanist, he finds a private oratory at the 
center of his heart. But this innermost shrine of religious 
inspiration is emphatically not a Calvinistic chapel, hostile 
to the arts. It is a retreat friendly to all the Muses that 
ever haunted "Siloa's brook" or Heliconian springs. 

Emerson believed, indeed, like his great predecessor of 
the seventeenth century, that the pulsing spirit which "vol- 
untary moves harmonious numbers" prefers before all tem- 
ples "the upright heart and pure." But no one who has ap- 
proached that inner shrine will ever picture him as sum- 
moning the Sacred Nine about him in order to give them a 
lesson in conduct. No one understands Emerson who fails 
to perceive that he trusts his inspiration, like a Pythian 
prophet, like a celebrant of Dionjrsian mysteries. "If I am 
the devil's child," he defiantly retorted in his youth to one 
who had urged him to beware of his instincts, "I will live 
from the devil." Well assured that he was not the devil's 
child, he opened communication with his sources of power, 
resolute to receive and utter whatever they sent, though it 
might sound like blasphemy, though it might whiff received 
ethics down the wind. Through a great part of his prose 
and verse, there is the peculiar beat and throb which marks 

ork conceived in creative heat, under the sway of the 



INTRODUCTION xxxvii 

''divine madness." Some of the friends who came closest to 
him testified to receiving from him not counsel but a sheer 
access of vital energy exhilarating to the verge of intoxica- 
tion. It is above all a generative and fecundating impulse 
that he seeks for himself. It is above all that he desires 
to impart to others. 

We all tend to slip at times into colorless and meaningless 
routine, into lives of grey conmionplace and insignificance. 
Emerson seems to have apprehended this as a peril to which 
our democratic society is peculiarly exposed. ^Ile. cultivates 
the means of combating it. He cultivates, fo? example, the 
color of Oxientat ptmlijL Ti^SoSoweT^iS^ this Unitarian 
in revolt against the tedium and dead level of the cold New 
England virtue, and cries: "Let us be crowned with roses, 
let us drink wine, and break up the tiresome old roof of 
heaven into new forms." He writes an essay on "Inspira- 
tion," which is a study under ten headings of the technique 
of exaltation, of ecstasy. He chants an ode to Bacchus, 
calling for 

Wine of wine, 

Blood of the world, 

Form of forms, and mold of statures, 

That I intoxicated 

And by the draught assimilated, 

May float at pleasure through all natures. 

Under the heading "Morals" in his discourse on "Poetry 
and TTnfl.ginn.tinn/' he comes to the conclusion, entirely char- 
acteristic of him, that "Power, new power, is the good 
wld ch the soul seeks," On this theme Emerson writes 
occasionally witE^a recklessness not often associated with 
the "Victorian" period in America. For power, he intimates 
in "Mithridates," a poet may perhaps well pay with his 
soul: 

Too long shut in strait and few, 

Thinly dieted on dew, 

I will use the world, rnd sift it. 

To a thousand hymors shift it, 

As you spin a cherry. 

O doleful ghosts, and goblins merry! 

O all you virtues, methods, mighti|> 

^fean8, appliances, delights, 



xxxviii INTRODUCTION 

Reputed wrongs and braggart rights. 
Smug routine, and things allowed, 
Minorities, things under doudl 
Hither! take me, use me, fill me. 
Vein and artery, though ye kill me! 

As a priest of the ''being God, not the God that has 
been/' Eknerson finds that even the greatest of the old poets 
do not wholly content him. As a believer in the doctrine 
of continuous revelation, he demands a new revelation. "In 
a cotillon," he declares in "Poetry and Ima^nation/' "some 
persons dance and others await their turn when the music 
and the figure come to them. In the dance of God there is 
not one of the chorus but can and will begin to spin, monu- 
mental as he now looks, whenever the music and figure 
reach his place and duty. celestial Bacchus! drive them 
mad, — this multitude of vagabonds, hungry for eloquence, 
hungry for poetry, starving for symbols, perishing for 
want of electricity to vitalize this too much pasture, and 
in the long delay indemnifying themselves with the false 
wine of alcohol, of politics, or of money." 

Emerson knew pretty well what he wanted m the way of 
a new poet. He was not in the least interested in the pro- 
duction of more "parlor or piano verse.'^ He wanted such 
utterance as could come only from a great and noble, soul 
immersed in the realities and filled with the isjpmt ot the 
. modem world. His poet must be radical, iev<dutionaiy, 
^ formative: "Bring us the bards who shall sing all our old 
ideas out of our heads, and new ones in; men-making 
poets. . . . poetry which finds its rhymes and cadences in 
the rhymes and iterations of nature, and is the gift to men 
of new images and s3mibols, each the enMgn and oracle of 
an age; that shall assimilate men to it, mould itself into 
religions and m3rthologies, and impart its quality to cen- 
turies." In his essay on "The Poet" he regrets that "we 
have yet had no genius in America, with t3rrannous eye, 
which knew the value of our incomparable materials, and 
saw, in the barbarism and materialism of the times, another 
carnival of the same gods whose picture it so much admires 
in Homer; then in the middle age; then in Calvinism. . . . 
Our log-rolling, our stumps and their politics, our fisheries, 



INTRODUCTION xxxix 

our Negroes, and Indians, our boats, and our repudiations, 
the wrath of rogues, and the pusillanimity of honest men, 
the northern trade, the southern planting, the western 
clearing, Oregon and Texas, are yet unsung. Yet America 
is a poem in our eyes; its ample geography dazzles the 
imagination, and it will not wait long for metres." Qearly, 
Emerson was calling for a singer in many important re- 
spects resembling Whitman; and Whitman answered. 

It is not yet adequately recognized to what extent Emer- 
son anticipated not only Whitman but also the poets of 
the present hour. He anticipates their desire to strike up 
for the new world a new tune. He thinks that we leaned 
too much in the past upon England. Our literature has 
become lifelessly traditional through uninspired imitation. 
We require some sort of break and shock to liberate our 
own native talents. In an extremely interesting passage of 
the third volume of the Journals, he records the surmise 
that salvation may come from that very element which, in 
politics, he thought of as constituting the party of unkempt 
pioneers, barbarians, slave-holders, and corruptionists: "1 
suppose the evil may be cured by this rank rabble party, 
the Jacksbnism of the country, heedless of English and of all 
literature!^— a stone cut out of the ground without hands — 
they may root out the hollow dilettantism of our cultiva- 
tion in the coarsest way, and the new bom may be^ again 
to frame their own world with greater advantage.^' 

As literary critic, Emerson has, with only an occasional 
trace of reluctance, the courage of his free reli^on, his 
philosophy, his politics. ESs thought in these matters un- 
derlies and supports his Poetics and his Rhetoric. Mystic, 
symbolist, and democrat, he is constrained to declare that 
there is no vulgar life save that of which the poetry has not 
yet been written. He urges us bravely to paint the pros- 
pect from our doors, wherever they open. He asserts the 
posdbility of all subjects: ''A dog drawn by a master, or a 
litter of pigs, satisfies, and is a reality not less than the 
frescoes of Angelo.*' He detests a bookish and fossilized 
phrase and diction: "He only is a good writer who keeps one 
eye on his page, and with the other sweeps over thmgs; so 
that every sentence brings in a new contribution of obser- 



xi INTRODUCTION 

t 

vation.*' He has meditated deeply on image, rhyme, and 
J^^ y rhythm; and has discovered the literacy yalue.i)£ coUoquial 



■77 



i^denc§^ the picturesque language of children, the scoff and 
violence of the "yeoman," the pimgency of natural persons 
expressing thdr mother-wit. His essays contain as much 
great "free verse" as any one has written since. Poems^ch 
as "Hamatreya," "Woodnotes," "Monadnoc," and "Musketa- 
quid" prove his possession of senses tinglingly responsive to 
the touches of native color, scent, and soimd; show a poeti- 
cal nature that has struck root and has been richly nour- 
ished "in haunts which others scorned." As for bis general 
theory of art, in his more sanguine and exalted moments he 
goes heyo n d our most radical leaders in his pasaon for rec- 
onciling art with nature and restoring it to "all the people," 
so that the ultimate phase of artistic development would 
be an habitual happy imp rovisa tion. 

That aspiration, as Emerson would have been the first to 
admit, was ideal, was Utopian. It could be realized only in 
a profoimdly regenerated and enriched society. In this 
world as it is at present, he recognized that great poetry, 
for example, must be the result of special culture and aus- 
tere discipline. It must therefore be submitted for judg- 
ment to the cultivated and the disciplined. He has no im- 
mediate intention of accepting the standards of the mob. 
Our radical anti-academic friends would indeed dispose of 
him as "academic." For he comforts himself, in the absence 
of a national Academy, with this reflection, in the second vol- 
ume of the Journals: "Consider the permanence of the best 
opinion: the certainty with which a good book acquires 
fame, though a bad book succeeds better at first. Consider 
the natural academy which the best heads of the time con- 
stitute, and which 'tis pleasant to see, act almost as har- 
moniously and efficiently, as if they were organized and 
acted by vote." 

For a writer who is often classified nowadays as a "mere 
moralist," Emerson liberated an extraordinary number of 
ideas about both the major and the minor problems of the 
literary art. You may say, if you like, that his literary 
scrupulousness is but an aspect of his moral rectitude; but 



INTRODUCTION idi 

any other writer of his exacting artistic conscience would 
be saluted by all the anti-Puritans as a "lover of beauty/' 
a "martyr of style." In 1831, long before Flaubert or 
Pater had annoimced it, he committed to his Journal thcl^]]^' 
doctrine of the "unique word": "No man can write well^ 

who thinks tViftg ^in nny nVimon nf irnrHfl fnr }\\jf\ THft kw s 

of compoaitiQn.are„afi_8tric t as those of sculp ture and archi- 
tecture._ There is always on e line that ought tojbe drawn, k 
or one proportion t^at. shn^ilH hp kept, anfj every otEer line \ « r \ 
or proportion is wrong, and ^o far wrong as it deviates from 
this. So in writing, there is always a right word, and every 
other thfln t.hfl.^. )s | yrrnng. There" is HO beau ty in words 
except in their collocation. The effect of a fanciful word 
misplaced, is like that of a horn of exquisdte polish growing 
on a human head." 

Economy, Emerson regards as the poet's chastity: "Let 
the poet, of all men, stop with his inspiration. The inex- 
orable rule in the muses* cou rt, gi^/ter in spiration or silence, 
compels the bard to report only Hs^supreme mo- 
ments. It teaches the enormous force of a few words and in 
proportion to the inspiration checks loquacity." Despite 
his desire for fresh beginnings in America, he fbds it neces- 
sary to turn back to the old English writers, "not because 
they are old, but simply because they wrote well. If we 
write as well, we may deviate from them and our devia- 
tions shall be classical." Every one, it is to be hoped, re- 
members the little poem called "The Test," in which Emer- 
son challenges his reader to find the "five lines" in his 
verses which outlasted five hundred. It is a virtue in him, 
which our present loquacity should some day make 
esteemed, that he so often anticipates the winnowing of 
time, as in the firm Landorian carving of the "Concord 
Hymn" with its cumulative solenmity, reaching its climax 
in the breathless pause of the flawless final stanza, before 
the ultimate foot: 

Spirit, that made those heroes dare 
To die, and leave their children free. 
Bid Time and Nature gently spare 
The shaft we raise to them and thee. 



xlu INTRODUCTION 

The popular taste in poetry, as is proved by many of 
the great reputations, is a little waterish. Emerson served 
"wine of wine." He has been underrated as a poet because 
he did not understand, or would not practice, dilution. One 
suspects that he might be reinstated, if some student of 
Japanese verse would display in a wide-margined volume 
some fifty or a hundred of lids ''images," selected here and 
there from his basket of cut gems, for example: 

I am a willow of the wilderness 
Loving the wind that bent me 

Or possibly the reviver of Emerson should remind the 
Chicago School of these lines: 

Bulkeley, Hunt, Willard, Hosmer, Merriam, Flint, 
Possessed the land which rendered to their toil 
Hay, com, roots, hemp, flax, apples, wool and wood. 

Critics have sufficiently harped upon certain defects in 
the prose style of Emerson: the apparent lack of firm de- 
sign and evolution in the larger dividons of his discourse; 
the difficult transitions, the imperfect coherence, within the 
paragraphs. It is perhaps worth observing that some of 
these faults are closely connected with his characteristic 
virtues, and are truly due to the excess of these virtues. 
Emerson is characteristically rich and economical. He is so 
rich that he can put into a sentence as much as another 
would put into a paragraph, and as much into a paragraph 
as another would put into his entire discourse. He is so 
economical of space, so bent on filling every inch with 

\/ solid matter, that he deliberately prunes away what is 
merely explanatory knd transitional. If one compares 

• passages in the Journals with parallel passages in the essays, 
one remarks at first with surprise that the superiority on the 
side of fluency and texture is frequently with the Journals. 
The superiority of the essays is in condensation and in- 
tensity. 

It should be observed, furthermore, that in the prose 
which Emerson himself published the degree of fluency and 
stylistic coherence varies greatly with the subject. The 
moral essays, such as "Self-Reliance" and "Compensation," 
are written more or less in the manner of the Book of 



INTRODUCTION xlui 

Proverbs or the Essays of Bacon. They are built of dis- 
tmct mjunctions, maxims, and fragments of wisdom, twenty 
or thirty of them to a paragraph. ''Solid bags of duckshot/' 
Carlyle called these paragraphs, and urged Emerson to fuse 
them into a solid Imninous bar. They are close packed 
enough, in all conscience, without fusion. There is stuff 
enough for a morning s meditation in any half-dozen of the 
himdreds of maxims which make up the essay on Self-Re- 
liance. But no ordinary mind can read easily page after 
page of epitomized moral experience: "Be how it will, do 
right now. Always scorn appearances, and you always may. 
The force of character is cumulative. All the foregone 
days of virtue work their health into this." Before such 
matter can be made to flow, it must be diluted. Read in 
youth and for the first time, a page of such writing seems 
pebbly and difficult. But at each re-reading one discovers 
more pebbles that are interestingly translucent, opalescent, 
with a fire at the heart of them. Returning later in life, 
after perhaps the twentieth reading, one may discover that 
the pattern in the page comes out, that the gaps are bridged 
by one's own experience, that each sentence is illustrated 
by one's own verification of it, and that somehow this 
swift "saltation" from epitome to epitome of moral wisdom 
makes all other moral writing seem thin and fiat. 

But Emerson has many other prose manners, to which 
the stock criticisms and the traditional jests are not at all 
applicable. Turn, for example, to his "Thoreau," a bio- 
graphical portrait executed in the firm objective manner of 
Suetonius yet with the gusto of Plutarch — a superbly 
vital piece of characterization, unsurpassed if not unequalled 
by anything of like scope in American literature. Or con- 
sider the flow of his reminiscences of Brook Farm and his 
bland comment on Fourierism in "life and Letters in New 
England"; it is beautiful writmg, urbane, luminous, ex- 
quisitely ironical. Or for still another vein, turn the pages 
in "English Traits" where he describes meeting Thomas 
Carlyle, with something of the Scotch master's graphic 
force: 



riiv INTRODUCTION 

On my return, I came from Glasgow to Dumfries, and being in* 
tent on delivering a letter which I had brought from Rome, inquired 
for Craigenputtock. It was a farm in Nithdale, in the parish of 
Dumsoore, sixteen miles distant. No public coach passed near it, 
so I took a private carriage dom the inn. I found the house amid 
heathery hills, where the lonely scholar nourished his mighty heart. 
Carlyle was a man from his youth, an author who did not need to 
hide from his readers, and as absolute a man of the world, unknown 
and exiled on that hill*farm as if holding on his own terms what is 
best in London. He was tall and gaunt, with a cliff-like brow, self- 
possessed and holding his extraordinary powers of conversation in 
easy command; clinging to his northern accent with evident relish; 
full of lively anecdote, and with a streaming humor, which floated 
everything he looked upon. 

If Emerson writes comparatively little in the descriptive 
and narrative veins, it is neither from impotence nor by 
chance but on consideration. "Do you see," he asks himself, 
"what we preserve of history? a few anecdotes of a moral 
quality of some momentary act or word." The word of 
Canute on the sea-shore, he observes, is all the world re- 
members of the Danish conquest. Under the influence of 
this thought, he seems, for a time, to have meditated com- 
posing "a modern Plutarch," British and American, — in 
which his "Thoreau" would well have taken the place of 
Cato, and his "Lincoln" a place of its own. His "Repre- 
sentative Men" was a partial fulfilment of the design. But 
quite early in life Emerson was much occupied by a rival 
thought, thus recorded in the fourth volume of the Jour- 
nals: "I said to Bryant and to these young people, that the 
high poetry of the world from the beginning has been 
ethical, and it is the tendency of the ripe modem mind to 
produce it. . . . As I think, no man could be better occu- 
pied than in making up his own bible by hearkening to all 
those sentences which now here, now there, now in nursery 
rhymes, now in Hebrew, now in English bards, thrill him 
like the sound of a trumpet." In fulfilment of that design 
Emerson wrote his great essays. 

To many a lonely student, obscure and friendless, medi- 
tating in the long cold spring and adolescence of his talent 
on his untried powers, Emerson has come as with the sound 
of a magical trumpet, shattering the dungeons of fear, send- 



INTRODUCTION xlv 

ing the young knight on his quest inwardly fortified and 
rescdute to give soul and body to that undertaking, what- 
ever it be, for which he was sent into the world. Such is 
the primary function of the religious and democratic ethos 
with which he sought to impregnate American letters. He, 
too, had been lonely, obscure, uncertain of his way, feeble, 
and prone to husband his strength and his gifts. But when 
he found which way the planets are going and the well 
where the gods drink, he faltered no longer. "What a dis- 
covery I made one day, that the more I si)ent the more I 
grew, that it was as easy to occupy a large place and do 
much work as an obscure place to do little; and that in the 
winter in which I commimicated all my results to classes, I 
was full of new thoughts." To this, let us add that other 
thought, so precious to him that it appears repeatedly in 
various forms in the Journals and in the Essays: "If a man 
knows the law, he may settle himself in a shanty in a pine 
forest, and men will and must find their way to him as 
readily as if he lived in the City Hall." We shall keep near 
the main stream of the Emersonian virtue, if we close with 
a variation and enlargement of the same theme: "Penetrate 
to the bottom of the fact which draws you, although no 
newspaper, no poet, no man, has ever yet found life and 
beauty in that region, and presently when men are whis- 
pered by the gods to go and hunt in that direction, they 
shall find that they cannot get to the point which they 
would reach without passing over that highway which you 
have built. Your hermit's lodge shall be the Holy City and 
the Fair of the whole world." 



i 



COMMODITY 5 

then a trifle and a disturbance. I am the lover of uncon- 
tained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I And 
something more dear and connate than in streets or vil- 
lages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the 
distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as 
beautiful as his own nature. 

The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister, 
is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and tlie 
vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They 
nod to me, and I to them. The waving of the boughs in 
the storm, is new to me and old. It takes me by surprise, 
and yet is not unknown. Its effect is like that of a higher 
thought or a better emotion coming over me, when I 
deemed I was thinking justly or doing right. 

Yet it is certain that the power to produce this delight, 
does not reside in nature, but in man, or in a harmony of 
both. It is necessary to use these pleasures with great 
temperance. For, nature is not always tricked in holiday 
attire, but the same scene which yesterday breathed per- 
fiune and glittered as for the frolic of the nymphs, is over- 
spread with melancholy to-day. Nature always wears the^. 
colors of the spirit. To a man laboring under calamity, 
the heat of his own fire hath sadness in it. Then, there 
is a kind of contempt of the landscape felt by him who has 
just lost by death a dear friend, llie sky is less grand as 
is shuts do wn over le ss worth in the population. 



CHAPTER n 

COMMODITY 

Whoever considers the final cause of the world will 
discern a multitude of uses that enter as parts into that 
result. They all admit of being thrown into one of the 
following classes; Commodity; Beauty; Language; and 
Discipline. 

Under the general name of Commodity, I rank all those 
advantages which our senses owe to nature. This, of 



6 NATURE 

course, is a benefit which is temporary and mediate, not 
ultimate, like its service to the soul. Yet although low, it 
is perfect in its kind, and is the only use of nature which 
all mien apprehend. The misery of man appears like child- 
ish petulance, when we explore the steady and prodigal 
provision that has been made for his support and delight 
on this green ball which floats him through the heavens. 
What angels invented these splendid ornaments, these rich 
conveniences, this ocean of air above, this ocean of water 
beneath, this firmament of earth between, this zodiac of 
hghts, this tent of dropping clouds, this striped coat of 
climates, this fourfold year? Beasts, fire, water, stones, and 
com serve him. The field is at once his floor, his work- 
yard, his play-groimd, his garden, and his bed. 

"More servants wait on man 
Than he*U take notice of." — 

Nature, in its ministry to man, is not only the material, 
but is also the process and the result. All the parts 
incessantly work into each other's hands for the profit of 
man. The wind sows the seed; the sun evaporates the 
sea; the wind blows the vapor to the field; the ice, on 
the other side of the planet, condenses rain on this; the 
rain feeds the plant; the plant feeds the animal; and thus 
the endless circulations of the divine charity nourish man. 

The useful arts are reproductions or new combinations 
by the wit of man, of the same natural benefactors. He 
no longer waits for favoring gales, but by means of steam, 
he realizes the fable of iEolus's bag, and carries the two 
and thirty winds in the boiler of his boat. To diminish 
friction, he paves the road with iron bars, and, mounting 
a coach with a ship-load of men, animals, and merchandise 
behind him, he darts through the country, from town to 
town, like an eagle or a swallow through the air. By the 
aggregate of these aids, how is the face of the world changed 
from the era of Noah to that of Napoleon! The private 
poor man hath cities, ships, canals, bridges, built for him. 
He goes to the post-office, and the human race nm on his 
errands; to the book-shop, and the human race read and 



BEAUTY 7 

write of all that happens, for him; to the court-house, and 
nations repair his wrongs. He sets his house upon the 
road, and the hiunan race go forth every morning, and 
shovel out the snow, and cut a path for him. 

But there is no need of specifying particulars in this 
class of uses. The catalogue is endless, and the examples 
so obvious, that I shall leave them to the reader's re- 
flection, with the general remark, that this mercenary bene- 
fit is one which has i^pect to a farther good. A man is 
fed, not that he may be fed, but that he may work. 



CHAPTER III 

BEATTTT 

A NOBLER want of man is served by nature, namely, the 
love of Beauty. 

The ancient Greeks called the world x^f^i beauty. 
Such is the constitution of all things, or such the plastic 
power of the human eye, that the primary forms, as the 
sky, the mountain, the tree, the animal, give us a delight 
in and for themsdves; a pleasure arising from outline, 
color, motion, and grouping. This seems partly owing to 
the eye itself. The eye is the best of artists. By the 
mutual action of its structure and of the laws of light, per- 
spective is produced, which integrates every mass of ob- 
jects, of what character soever, into a well colored and 
shaded globe, so that where the particular objects are mean 
and unaffecting, the landscape which they compose, is round 
and synametrical. And as the eye is the best composer, 
so light is the first of painters. There is no object so foul 
that intense light will not make beautiful. And the stimu- 
lus it affords to the sense, and a sort of infinitude which 
it hath, like space and time, make all matter gay. Even 
the corpse has its own beauty. But beside this general 
grace diffused over nature, almost all the individual forms 
are agreeable to the eye, as is proved by our endless imita- 



8 NATURE 

tioDS of some of them, as the acorn, the grape, the pine- 
cone, the wheat-ear, the egg, the wings and forms of most 
birds, the lion's claw, the serpent, the butterfly, sea-shells, 
flames, clouds, buds, leaves, and the forms of many trees, as 
the palm. 

For better consideration, we may distribute the aspects 
of Beauty in a threefold manner. 

1. First, the simple perception of natural forms is a de- 
light. The influence of the forms and actions in nature, is so 
needful to man, that, in its lowest fimctions, it seems to lie 
on the confines of commodity and beauty. To the body 
and mind which have been cramped by noxious work or 
company, nature is medicinal and restores their tone. The 
tradesman, the attorney comes out of the din and craft 
of the street, and sees the sky and the woods, and is a man 
again. In their eternal calm, he finds himself. The health 
of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, 
so long as we can see far enough. 

But in other hours. Nature satisfies by its loveliness, and 
without any mixture of corporeal benefit. I see the spec- 
tacle of morning from the hilltop over against my house, 
from daybreak to simrise, with emotions which an angel 
might share. The long slender bars of cloud float like fishes 
in the sea of crimson light. From the earth as a shore, 
I look out into that silent sea. I seem to partake its rapid 
transformations: the active enchantment reaches my dust, 
and I dilate and conspire with the morning wind. How 
does Nature deify us with a few and cheap elements? Give 
/ me health and a day, and I will make the pomp of em- 
perors ridiculous. The dawn is my Assjrria; the sun-set 
and moon-rise my Paphos, and unimaginable realms of 
faerie; broad noon shall be my England of the senses and 
the understanding; the night shall be my Germany of mystic 
philosophy and dreams. 

Not less excellent, except for our less susceptibility in the 
afternoon, was the charm, last evening, of a January sun- 
set. The western clouds divided and subdivided themselves 
into pink flakes modulated with tints of unspeakable soft- 
ness; and the air had so much life and sweetness, that it 
was a pain to come within doors. What was it that natuiv^ 



BEAUTY 9 

would say? Was there no meaning in the live repose of 
the valley behind the mill, and which Homer or Shake- 
speare could not re-form for me in words? The leafless 
trees become spires of flame in the simset, with the blue 
east for their back-ground, and the stars of the dead calices 
of flowers, and every withered stem and stubble rimed with 
frost, contribute something to the mute music. 

The inhabitants of cities suppose that the country land- 
scape is pleasant only half the year. I please myself with 
the graces of the winter scenery, and believe that we are 
as much touched by it as by the genial influences of summer. 
To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its 
own beauty, and in the same fleld, it beholds, every 
hour, a picture which was never seen before, and 
which shall never be seen again. The heavens change 
every moment, and reflect their glory or gloom on 
the plains beneath. The state of the crop in the 
surrounding farms alters the expression of the earth 
from week to week. The succession of native plants in 
the pastures and roadside, which makes the silent clock by 
which time tells the summer hours, will make even the 
divifflons of the day sensible to a keen observer. The 
tribes of birds and insects, like the plants punctual to their 
time, follow each other, and the year has room for all. 
By water courses, the variety is greater. In July, the 
blue pontederia or pickerel-weed blooms in large beds in 
the shallow parts of our pleasant river, and swarms with 
yellow butterflies in continual motion. Art cannot rival 
this pomp of purple and gold. Indeed the river is a per- 
petual gala, and boasts each month a new ornament. 

But this beauty of Nature which is seen and felt as 
beauty, is the least part. The shows of day, the dewy 
morning, the rainbow, mountains, orchards in blossom, stars, 
moonlight, shadows in still water, and the like, if too eagerly 
hunted, become shows merely, and mock us with their 
unreality. Go out of the house to see the moon, and 't is 
mere tinsel; it will not please as when its light shines upon 
your necessary journey. The beauty that shimmers in the 
yellow Afternoons of October, who ever could clutch it? 



10 NATURE 

Go forth to find it, and it is gone: 't is only a mirage as 
you look from the windows of diligence. 

2. The presence of a higher, namely, of the spiritual ele- 
ment is essential to its perfection. The high and divine 
beauty which can be loved without effeminacy, is that 
which is found in combination with the human will. Beauty 
•^ is the mark God sets upon virtue. Every natural action 
is graceful. Every heroic act is also decent, and causes 
the place and the bystanders to shine. We are taught by 
great actions that the universe is the property of every 
individual in it. Every rational creature has all nature 
for his dowry and estate. It is his, if he will. He may 
divest himself of it, he may creep into a comer, and abdi- 
cate his kingdom, as most men do, but he is entitled to the 
world by his constitution. In proportion to the energy of 
his thought and will, he takes up the world into himiself . 
''All those things for which men plough, build, or sail, 
obey virtue"; said Sallust. "The winds and waves>^ said 
Gibbon, "are always on the side of the ablest navigators." 
So are the sun and moon and all the stars of heaven. 
When a noble act is done — perchance in a scene of great 
natural beauty; when Leonidas and his three hundred 
martyrs consume one day in dying, and the sun and moon 
come each and look at them once in the steep defile 
of Thermopylae; when Arnold Winkelried, in the high 
Alps, under the shadow of the avalanche, gathers in his 
side a sheaf of Austrian spears to break the line for his 
comrades; are not these heroes entitled to add the beauty 
of the scene to the beauty of the deed? When the bark of 
Columbus nears the shore of America; before it, the beach 
lined with savages, fleeing out of all their huts of cane; 
the sea behind; and the purple mountains of the Indian 
Archipelago around, can we separate the man from the liv- 
ing picture? Does not the New World clothe his form with 
her palm-groves and savannahs as fit drapery? Ever does 
natural beauty steal in like air, and envelop great actions. 
When Sir Harry Vane was dragged up the Tower-hill, sit- 
ting on a sled, to suffer death, as the champion of the 
English laws, one of the multitude cried out to him, "You 



BEAUTY 11 

never sate on so glorious a seat." Charles II., to intimidate 
the citizens of London, caused the patriot Lord Russel to 
be drawn in an open coach, through the principal streets 
of the city, on his way to the scaffold. "But," his biog- 
rapher sajrs, "the multitude imagined they saw hberty and 
virtue sitting by his side." In private places, among sordid 
objects, an act of truth or heroism seems at once to draw 
to itself the sky as its temple, the sun as its candle. Nature 
stretcheth out her arms to embrace man, only let his 
thoughts be of equal greatness. Willingly does i^e follow 
his steps with the rose and the violet, and bend her lines 
of grandeur and grace to the decoration of her darling 
child. Only let his thoughts be of equal scope, and the 
frame will suit the picture. A virtuous man is in unison 
with her works, and makes the central figure of the 
visible sphere. Homer, Pindar, Socrates, Phocion, associate 
themselves fitly in our memory with the geography and 
climsfte of Greece. The visible heavens and earth sympa- 
thize with Jesus. And in common life, whosoever hss seen 
a person of powerful character and happy genius, will 
have remarked how easily he took all things along with 
him, — the persons, the opinions, and the day, and nature 
became ancillary to a man. 

3. There is still another aspect under which the beauty 
of the world may be viewed, namely, as it becomes an 
object of the intellect. Beside the relation of things to 
virtue, they have a relation to thought. The intellect 
searches out the absolute order of things as they stand in 
the mind of God, and without the colors of affection. The 
intellectual and the active powers seem to succeed each 
other, and the exclusive activity of the one, generates the 
exclusive activity of the other. There is something un- 
friendly in each to the other, but they are like the alter- 
nate periods of feeding and working in animals; each pre- 
pares and will be followed by the other. Therefore does 
beauty, which, in relation to actions, as we have seen, cotnes 
unsought, and comes because it is imsought, remain for 
the apprehension and pursuit of the intellect; and then 
again, in its turn, of the active power. Nothing divine dies. 



12 NATURE 

All good is eternally reproductive. The beauty of nature 
re-forms itself in the mind, and not for barren contempla- 
tion, but for new creation. 

All men are in some degree impressed by the face of the 
world; some men even to dehght. This love of beauty is 
Taste. Others have the same love in such excess, that, 
iiot content with admiring, they seek to embody it in 
new forms. The creation of beauty is Art. 

The production of a work of art throws a hght upon the 
mystery of humanity. A work of art is an abstract or 
epitome of the world. It is the result or expression of 
nature, in miniature. For, although the works of nature are 
inniunerable and all different, the result or the expression 
of them all is similar and single. Nature is a sea of forms 
radically alike and even imique. A leaf, a sun-beam, a 
landscape, the ocean, make an analogous impression on the 
mind. What is common to them all — that perfectness 
and harmony, is beauty. The standard of beauty is the 
entire circuit of natural forms — the totality of nature; 
which the Italians expressed by defining beauty "il piu nell' 
uno." Nothing is quite beautiful alone: nothing but is 
beautiful in the whole. A single object is only so far beau- 
tiful as it suggests this imiversal grace. The poet, the 
painter, the sculptor, the musician, the architect, seek each 
to concentrate this radiance of the world on one point, and 
each in his several work to satisfy the love of beauty which 
stimulates him to produce. Thus is Art, a nature passed 
through the alembic of man. Thus in art, does nature work 
through the will of a man filled with the beauty of her 
first works. 

The world thus exists to the soul to satisfy the desire 
of beauty. This element I call an ultimate end. No 
reason can be asked or given why the soul seeks beauty. 
Beauty, in its largest and profoundest sense, is one expres- 
sion for the universe. God is the all-fair. Truth, and 
goodness, and beauty, are but different faces of the same 
All. But beauty in nature is not ultimate. It is the herald 
of inward and eternal beauty, and is not alone a soUd and 
satisfactory good. It must stand as a part, and not as yet 
the last or highest expression of the final cause of Nature. 



LANGUAGE I5 



CHAPTER IV 

LANGUAGE 

Language is a third use which Nature subserves to 
man. Nature is the vehicle of thought, and in a simple, 
double, and threefold degree. 

1. Words are signs of natural facts. 

2. Particular natural facts are symbols of particular 
spiritual facts. 

3. Nature is the symbol of spirit. 

1. Words are signs of natural facts. The use of natural 
history is to give us aid in supernatural history: the use 
of the outer creation, to give us language for the beings 
and changes of the inward creation. Every word which 
is used to express a moral or intellectual fact, if traced 
to its root, is foimd to be borrowed from some material 
appearance. Right means straight; wrong means tvnsted. 
Spirit primarily means wind; transgression, the crossing 
of a line; supercilious, the raising of the eyebrow. We say 
the heart to express emotion, the head to denote thought; 
and thought and emotion are words borrowed from sensible 
things, and now appropriated to spiritual nature. Most of 
the process by which this transformation is made, is hidden 
from us in the remote time when language was framed; but 
the same tendency may be daily observed in children. 
Children and savages use only nouns or names of things, 
which they convert into verbs, and apply to analogous 
mental acts. 

2. But this origin of all words that convey a spiritual 
import — so conspicuous a fact in the history of language 
— is our least debt to nature. It is not words only that 
are emblematic; it is things which are emblematic. Every 
natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact. Every 
appearance in nature corresponds to some state of the mind, 
and that state of the mind can only be described by pre- 
senting that natural appearance as its picture. An en- 
raged man is a lion, a cunning man is a fox, a firm man is 



M NATURE 

a rock, a learned man is a torch. A lamb is innocence; a 
snake is subtle spite; flowers express to us the delicate 
affections. Light and darkness are our familiar expression 
for knowledge and ignorance; and heat for love. Visible 
distance behind and before us, is respectively our image of 
memory and hope. 

Who looks upon a river in a meditative hour, and is 
not reminded of the flux of all things? Throw a stone 
into the stream, and the circles that propagate themselves 
are the beautiful tyi)e of all influence. Man is conscious 
of a universal soul within or behind his individual life, 
wherein, as in a firmament, the natures of Justice, Truth, 
Love, Freedom, arise and shine. This universal soul, he 
calls Reason: it is not mine, or thine, or his, but we are 
its; we are its property and men. And the blue sky in which 
the private earth is buried, the sky with its eternal calm, 
and full of everlasting orbs, is the type of Reason. That 
which, intellectually considered, we call Reason, considered 
in relation to nature, we call Spirit. Spirit is the Creator. 
Spirit hath life in itself. And man in all ages and countries, 
embodies it in his language, as the Father. 

It is easily seen that there is nothing lucky or capricious 
in these analogies, but that they are constant, and pervade 
nature. These are not the dreams of a few poets, here and 
there, but man is an analogist, and studies relations in all 
objects. He is placed in the center of beings, and a ray 
of relations passes from every other being to him. And 
neither can man be understood ' without these objects, 
nor these objects without man. All the facts in natural 
history taken by themselves, have no value, but are barren, 
like a single sex. But marry it to human history, and 
it is full of life. Whole Floras, all Linnaeus's and Buffon's 
volumes, are dry catalogues of facts; but the most trivial 
of these facts, the habit of a plant, the organs, or work, 
or noise of an insect, applied to the illustration of a fact 
in intellectual philosophy, or in any way associated to 
human nature, affects us in the most lively and agreeable 
manner. The seed of a plant — to what affecting analogies 
in the imturQ of man^ is that little fruit made use of, in 



LANGUAGE 16 

all discourse, up to the voice of Paul, who calls the human 
corpse a seed — "It is sown a natural body; it is raised a 
spiritual body." The motion of the earth round its axis, 
and round the sun, makes the day, and the year. These 
are certain amounts of brute light and heat. But is there 
no intent of an analogy between man's life and the seasons? 
And do the seasons gain no grandeur or pathos from that 
analogy? The instincts of the ant are very imimportant, 
considered as the ant's: but the moment a ray of relation 
is seen to extend from it to man, and the little drudge is 
seen to be a monitor, a little body with a mighty heart, 
then all its habits, even that said to be recently observed, 
that it never sleeps, become sublime. 

Because of this radical correspondence between visible 
things and human thoughts, savages, who have only what is* 
necessary, converse in figures. As we go back in history, 
language becomes more picturesque, imtil its infancy, when 
it is all poetry; or all spiritual facts are represented by 
natural symbols. The same S3anbols are found to make 
the original elements of all languages. It has moreover 
been observed, that the idioms of all languages approach 
each other in passages of the greatest eloquence and power. 
And as this is the first language, so is it the last. This 
immediate dependence of language upon nature, this con- 
version of an outward phenomenon into a tyx)e of somewhat 
in human life, never loses its power to affect us. It is this 
which gives that piquancy to the conversation of a strong- 
natured farmer or back-woodsman, which all men relish. 

A man's power to connect his thought with its proper 
symbol, and so to utter it, depends on the simplicity of his 
character, that is, upon his love of truth, and his desire to 
communicate it without loss. The corruption of man is 
followed by the corruption of language. When simplicity 
of character and the sovereignty of ideas is broken up 
by the prevalence of secondary desires, the desire of riches, \ 
of pleasure, of power, and of praise — and duplicity and 
falsehood take place of simplicity and truth, the power' 
over nature as an interpreter of the will, is in a degree 
lost; new imagery ceases to be created, and old words are 



16 NATURE 

pen^erted to stand for things which are not; a paper cur- 
rency is employed, when there is no bnlHon in the vaults. 
In due time, the fraud is manifest, and words lose all power 
to stimulate the imderstanding or the affections. Hundreds 
of writers may be found in every long-civilized nation, who 
for a short time believe, and make others beheve, that 
they see and utter truths, who do not of themselves clothe 
one thought in its natural garment, but who feed uncon- 
sciously on the language created by the primary writers of 
the country, those, namely, who hold primarily on nature. 

But wise men pierce th^ rotten diction and fasten words 
again to visible things; so that picturesque language is at 
once a commanding certificate that he who employs it, is 
a man in alliance with truth and God. The moment our 
discourse rises above the ground line of familiar facts, 
and is inflamed with passion or exalted by thought, it 
clothes itself in images. A man conversing in earnest, if 
he watch his intellectual processes, will find that a material 
image, more or less luminous, arises in his mind, cotempora- 
neous with every thought, which furnishes the vestment 
of the thought. Hence, good writing and brilliant dis- 
course are perpetual allegories. This imagery is sponta- 
neous. It is the blending of experience with the present 
action of the mind. It is proper creation. It is the work- 
ing of the Original Cause through the instruments he has 
already made. 

These facts may suggest the advantage which the coimtry- 
life possesses for a powerful mind, over the artificial and 
curtailed life of cities. We know more from nature than 
we can at will communicate. Its hght flows into the mind 
evermore, and we forget its presence. The poet, the orator, 
bred in the woods, whose senses have been nourished by 
their fair and appeasing changes, year after year, without 
design and without heed — shall not lose their lesson 
altogether, in the roar of cities or the broil of politics. 
Long hereafter, amidst agitation and terror in natural 
councils — in the hour of revolution — these solemn images 
shall reappear in their morning lustre, as fit symbols and 
words of the thoughts which the passing/ events shall 



LANGUAGE 17 

awaken. At the call of a noble sentiment, again the woods 
wave, the pines murmur, the river rolls and shines, and the 
cattle low upon the moimtains, as he saw and heard them in 
his infancy. And with these forms, the spells of persua- 
sion, the keys of power are put into his hands. 

3. We are thus assisted by natural objects in the expres- 
sion of particular meanings. But how great a language to 
convey such pepper-corn informations! Did it need such 
noble races of creatures, this profusion of forms, this host 
of orbs in heaven, to furnish man with the dictionary and 
grammar of his municipal speech? Whilst we use this 
grand cipher to exi)edite the affairs of our pot and kettle, 
we feel that we have not yet put it to its use, neither are 
able. We are like travelers using the cinders of a volcano 
to roast their eggs. Whilst we see that it always stands 
ready to clothe what we would say, we cannot avoid the 
question, whether the characters are not significant of them- 
selves. Have mountains, and waves, and skies, no signifi- 
cance but what we consciously give them, when we employ 
them as emblems of our thoughts? The world is emblem- 
atic. Parts of speech are metaphors, because the whole 
of nature is a metaphor, of the human mind. The laws 
of moral nature answer to those of matter as face to face 
in a glass. "The visible world and the relation of its 
parts, is the dial plate of the invisible." The axioms of 
physics translate the laws of ethics. Thus, "the whole is 
greater than its part"; "reaction is equal to action"; "the 
smallest weight may be made to lift the greatest, the differ- 
ence of weight being compensated by time"; and many 
the like propositions, which have an ethical as well as 
physical sense. These propositions have a much more ex- 
tensive and universal sense when applied to human life, 
than when confined to technical use. 

In hke manner, the memorable words of history, and 
the provefbs of nations, consist usually of a natural fact, 
selected as a picture or parable of a moral truth. Thus; 
A rolling stone gathers no moss; A bird in the hand is worth 
two in the bush; A cripple in the right way, will beat a 
racer in the wrong; Make hay while the sun shines; T is 



18 NATURE 

hard to carry a full cup even; Vinegar is the son of wine; 
The last ounce broke the camel's back; Long-hved trees 
make roots first; — ^and the like. In their primary sense 
these are trivial facts, but we rei)eat them for the value 
of their analogical import. What is true of proverbs, is 
true of all fables, parables, and allegories. 

This relation between the mind and matter is not fan- 
cied by some poet, but stands in the will of God, and so 
is free to be known by all men. It appears to men, or it 
does not appear. When in fortunate hours we ponder this 
miracle, the wise man doubts, if, at all other times, he is 
not blind and deaf; 

"Can these things be, 



And overcome us like a summer's cloud 
"Without our special wonder?" 

for the universe becomes transparent, and the light of 
higher laws than its own, shines through it. It is the 
standing problem which has exercised the wonder and the 
study of every fine genius since the world began; from 
the era of the Egyptians and the Brahmins, to that of 
Pythagoras, of Plato, of Bacon, of Leibnitz, of Sweden- 
borg. There sits the Sphinx at the roadside, and from 
age to age, as each prophet comes by, he tries his fortune 
at reading her riddle. There seems to be a necessity in 
spirit to manifest itself in material forms; and day and night, 
river and storm, beast and bird, acid and alkali, pre-exist 
in necessary Ideas in the mind of God, and are what they 
are by virtue of preceding affections, in the world of 
spirit. A Fact is the end or last issue of spirit. The 
visible creation is the terminus or the circumference of 
the invisible world. "Material objects," said a French 
philosopher, "are necessarily kinds pf scorioe of the sub- 
stantial thoughts of the Creator, which must always pre- 
serve an exact relation to their first origin; in other words, 
visible nature must have a spiritual and moral side." 

This doctrine is abstruse, and though the images of 
garments, "scoriae," "mirror," etc., may stimulate the fancy, 
we must summon the aid of subtler and more vital ex- 



DISCIPLINE 19 

positors to make it plain. "Every scripture is to be inter- 
preted by the same spirit which gave it forth" — is the 
fundamental law of criticism. A life in harmony with 
nature, the love of truth and of virtue, will purge the eyes 
to imderstand her text. By degrees we may come to know 
the primitive sense of the permanent objects of nature, so 
that the world shall be to us an open book, and every form 
significant of its hidden life and final cause. 

A new interest surprises us, whilst, imder the view now 
suggested, we contemplate the fearful extent and multitude 
of objects; since "every object rightly seen, unlocks a new 
faculty of the soul." That which was imconscious truth, 
becomes, when interpreted and defined in an object, a part 
of the domain of knowledge — a new weapon in the maga- 
zine of power. 



CHAPTER V 

DISCIPLINE 

In view of the significance of nature, we arrive at once 
at a new fact, that nature is a discipline. This use of the 
world includes the preceding uses, as parts of itself. 

Space, time, society, labor, climate, food, locomotion, the 
animals, the mechanical forces, give us sincerest lessons, day 
by day, whose meaning is unlimited. They educate both 
the Understanding and the Reason. Every property of 
matter is a school for the understanding — its solidity or 
resistance, its inertia, its extension, its figure, its divisibility. 
The understanding adds, divides, combines, measures, and 
finds nutriment and room for its activity in this worthy 
scene. Meantime, Reason transfers all these lessons into 
its own world of thought, by perceiving the analogy that 
marries Matter and Mind. 

1. Nature is a discipline of the understanding in intellec- 
tual truths. Our dealing with sensible objects is a qbnstant 
exercise in the necessary lessons of difference, of ffieness, 
of order, of bemg and seeming, of progressive a]rra|ig;ement;j 



20 NATURE 

of ascent from particular to general; of combination to 
one end of manifold forces. Proportioned to the impor- 
tance of the organ to be formed, is the extreme care with 
which its tuition is provided — a care pretermitted in no 
single case. What tedious training, day after day, year 
after year, never ending, to form the common sense; what 
continual reproduction of annoyances, inconveniences, di- 
lemmas; what rejoicing over us of little men; what dis- 
puting of prices, what reckonings of interest — and all to 
form the Hand of the mind — to instruct us that "good 
thoughts are no better than good dreams, unless they be 
executed!" 

The same good office is performed by Property and its 
filial systems of debt and credit. Debt, grinding debt, 
whose iron face the widow, the orphan, and the sons of 
genius fear and hate — debt, which consumes so much time, 
which so cripples and disheartens a great spirit with cares 
that seems so base, is a preceptor whose lessons cannot be 
foregone, and is needed most by those who suffer from it 
most. Moreover, property, which has been well compared 
to snow — "if it fall level to-day, it will be blown into 
drifts to-morrow" — is the surface action of internal ma- 
chinery, like the index on the face of a clock. Whilst now 
it is the g3nnnastics of the understanding, it is hiving in 
the foresight of the spirit, experience in profounder laws. 

The whole character and fortune of the individual are 
affected by the least inequalities in the culture of the 
imderstanding; for example, in the perception of differences. 
Therefore is Space, and therefore Time, that man may know 
that things are not huddled and lumped, but sundered and 
individual. A bell and a plough have each their use, and 
neither can do the office of the other. Water is good to 
drink, coal to bum, wool to wear; but wool cannot be 
drunk, nor water spun, nor coal eaten. The wise man 
shows his wisdom in separation, in gradation, and his scale 
of creatures and of merits is as wide as nature. The foolish 
have no range in their scale, but suppose every man is 
as every other man. What is not good they call the worst, 
and what is not hateful they call the best. 



DISCIPLINE 21 

In like manner^ what good heed, nature forms in us! 
She pardons no mistakes. Her yea is yea, and her nay, 
nay. 

The first steps in Agriculture, Astronomy, Zoology (those 
first steps which the farmer, the hunter, and the sailor 
take), teach that nature's dice are always loaded; that 
in her heaps and rubbish are concealed sure and useful 
results. 

How calmly and genially the mind apprehends one £^fter 
another the laws of physics! What noble emotions dilate 
the mortal as he enters into the counsels of the creation, 
and feels by knowledge the privilege to Be! His insight 
refines him. The beauty of nature shines in his own breast. 
Man is greater that he can see this, and the universe less, 
because Time and Space relations vanish as laws are known. 

Here again we are impressed and even daunted by the 
immense Universe to be explored. "What we know, is a 
point to what we do not know." Open any recent journal 
of science, and weigh the problems suggested concerning 
Light, Heat, Electricity, Magnetism, Physiology, Geology, 
and judge whether the interest of natural science is likely 
to be soon exhausted. 

Passing by many particulars of the discipline of nature, 
we must not omit to specify two. 

The exercise of the Will or the lesson of power is taught 
in every event. From the child's successive possession of 
his several senses up to the hour when he saith, "Thy will 
be done!" he is learning the secret, that he can reduce 
under his will, not only particular events, but great classes, 
nay the whole series of events, and so conform all facts 
to his character. Nature is thoroughly mediate. It is 
made to serve. It receives the dominion of man as meekly 
as the ass on which the Saviour rode. It offers all its 
kingdoms to man as the raw material which he may mould 
into what is useful. Man is never weary of working it up. 
He forges the subtile and delicate air into wise and melodi- 
ous words, and gives them wing as angels of persuasion 
and command. One after another, his victorious thought 
comes up with and reduces all things, imtil the world be- 



22 NATURE 

comes, at last, only a realized will — the double of the man. 

2. Sensible objects conform to the premonitions of Rea- 
son and reflect the conscience. All things are moral; and 
in their boundless changes have an unceasing reference to 
spiritual nature. Therefore is nature glorious with form, 
color, and motion, that every globe in the remotest heaven; 
every chemical change from the rudest crystal up to the 
laws of life; every change of vegetation from the first 
principle of growth in the eye of a leaf, to the tropical 
forest and antediluvian coal-mine; every animal fimction 
from the sponge up to Hercules, shall hint or thunder to 
man the laws of right and wrong, and echo the Ten Com- 
mandments. Therefore is nature ever the ally of Rehgion: 
lends all her pomp and riches to the religious sentiment. 
Prophet and priest, David, Isaiah, Jesus, have drawn deeply 
from this source. This ethical character so penetrates the 
bone and marrow of nature, as to seem the end for which 
it was made. Whatever private purpose is answered by 
any member or part, this is its public and universal func- 
tion, and is never omitted. Nothing in nature is exhausted 
in its first use. When a thing has served an end to the 
uttermost, it is wholly new for an ulterior service. In God, 
every end is converted into a new means. Thus the use 
of conmiodity, regarded by itself, is mean and squalid. 
But it is to the mind an education in the doctrine of Use, 
namely, that a thing is good only so far as it serves; 
that a conspiring of parts and efforts to the production of 
an end, is essential to any being. The first and gross 
manifestation of this truth, is our inevitable and hated train- 
ing in values and wants, in com and meat. 

It has already been illustrated, that every natural process 
is a version of a moral sentence. The moral law lies at 
the center of nature and radiates to the circumference. 
It is the pith and marrow of every substance, every rela- 
tion, and every process. All things with which we deal, 
preach to us. What is a farm but a mute gospel? The 
chaff and the wheat, weeds and plants, blight, rain, insects, 
sun — it is a sacred emblem from the first furrow of spring 
to the last stack which the snow of winter overtakes in 



DISCIPLINE 23 

the fields. But the sailor, the shepherd, the miner, the 
merchant, in their several resorts, have each an experience 
precisely parallel, and leading to the same conclusion: be- 
cause all organizations are radically alike. Nor can it be 
doubted that this moral sentiment which thus scents the 
air, grows in the grain, and impregnates the waters of 
the world, is caught by man and sinks into his soul. The 
moral influence of nature upon every individual is that 
amount of truth which it illustrates to him. Who can 
estimate this? Who can guess how much firmness the 
sea-beat€n rock has taught the fisherman? how much tran- 
quillity has been reflected to man from the azure sky, over 
whose imspotted deeps the winds forevermore drive flocks 
of stormy clouds, and leave no wrinkle or stain? how much 
industry and proAddence and affection we have caught 
from the pantomime of brutes? What a searching preacher 
of self-command is the var)dng phenomenon of Health! 

Herein is especially apprehended the unity of Nature — 
the unity in variety — which meets us everywhere. All 
the endless variety of things make an identical impression. 
Xenophanes complained in his old age, that, look where 
he would, all thing hastened back to Unity. He was weary 
of seeing the same entity in the tedious variety of forms. 
The fable of Proteus has a cordial truth. A leaf, a drop, 
a crystal, a moment of time is related to the whole, and 
partakes of the perfection of the whole. Each particle is 
a microcosm, and faithfully renders the likeness of the 
world. 

Not only resemblances exist in things whose analogy is 
obvious, as when we detect the type of the human hand 
in the flipper of the fossil saurus, but also in objects wherein 
there is great superficial unlikeness. Thus architecture is 
called "frozen music," by De Stael and Goethe. Vitruvius 
thought an architect should be a musician. "A Gothic 
church," said Coleridge, "is a petrified religion." Michael 
Angelo maintained, that, to an architect, a knowledge of 
anatomy is essential. In Haydn's oratorios, the notes pre- 
sent to the imagination not only motions, as of the snake, 
the stag, and the elephant, but colors also; as the green 



24 NATURE 

grass. The law of harmonic sounds reappears in the har- 
monic colors. The granite is differenced in its laws only 
by the more or less of heat, from the river that wears it 
away. The river, as it flows, resembles the air that flows 
over it; the air resembles the light which traverses it with 
more subtle currents; the light resembles the heat which 
rides with it through Space. Each creature is only a modifi- 
cation of the other; the likeness in them is more than the 
difference, *and their radical law is one and the same. A 
rule of one art, or a law of one organization, holds true 
throughout nature. So intimate is this Unity, that, it is 
easily seen, it hes under the undermost garment of nature, 
and betrays its source in Universal Spirit. For, it pervades 
Thought also. . Every universal truth which we express in 
words, implies or supposes every other truth. Omne verum 
vero consonat. It is like a great circle on a sphere, com- 
prising all possible circles; which however, may be drawn, 
and comprise it, in like manner. Every such truth is the 
absolute Ens seen from one side. But it has innumerable 
sides. 

The central Unity is still more conspicuous in actions. 
Words are finite organs of the infinite mind. They can- 
not cover the dimensions of what is in truth. They break, 
chop, and impoverish it. An action is the perfection and 
publication of thought. A right action seems to fill the eye, 
and to be related to all nature. "The wise man, in doing 
one thing, does all; or, in the one thing he does rightly, he 
sees the likeness of all which is done rightly." 

Words and actions are not the attributes of brute nature. 
They introduce us to the human form, of which all other 
organizations appear to be degradations. When this ap- 
pears among so many that surround it, the spirit prefers 
it to all others. It says, 'From such as this, have I drawn 
joy and knowledge; in such as this, have I found and 
beheld myself; I will speak to it; it can speak again; it 
can yield me thought already formed and alive.' In fact, 
the eye — the mind — is always accompanied by these 
forms, male and female; and these are incomparably the 
richest informations of the power and order that lie at 



IDEALISM 25 

the heart of things. Unfortunately, every one of them bears 
the marks as of some injury; is marred and superficially 
defective. Nevertheless, far different from the deaf and 
dumb nature aroimd them, these all rest like fountain-pipes 
on the unfathomed sea of thought and virtue whereto they 
alone, of all organizations, are the entrances. 

It were a pleasant inquiry to follow into detail their 
ministry to our education, but where would it stop? We 
are associated in adolescent and adult hfe with some friends, 
who, like skies and*waters, are coextensive with our idea; 
who, answering each to a certain affection of the soul, 
satisfy our desire on that side; whom we lack power to 
put at such focal distance from us, that we can mend or 
even analyze them. We cannot choose but love them. 
When much intercourse with a friend has supplied us with 
a standard of excellence, and has increased our respect for 
the resources of God who thus sends a real person to outgo 
our ideal; when he has, moreover, become an object of 
thought, and, whilst his character retains all its uncon- 
scious effect, is converted in the mind into soUd and sweet 
wisdom — it is a sign to us that his office is closing, and 
he is conmionly withdrawn from our sight in a short time. 



CHAPTER VI 

mEALISM 

Thus is the unspeakable but inteUigible and practicable 
meaning of the world conveyed to man, the immortal pupil, 
in every object of sense. To this one end of DiscipUne, all 
parts of nature conspire. 

A noble doubt perpetually suggests itself, whether this 
end be not the Final Cause of the Universe; and whether 
nature outwardly exists. It is a sufficient account of that 
Appearance we call the World, that God will teach a human 
mind, and so makes it the receiver of a certain number 
of congruent sensations, which we call sun and moon, man 
and woman, house and trade. In my utter impotence to 



26 NATURE 

test the authenticity of the report of my senses, to know 
whether the impressions they make on me correspond with 
outlying objects, what difference does it make, whether 
Orion is up there in heaven, or some god paints the image 
in the firmament of the soul? The relations of parts and 
the end of the whole remaining the same, what is the differ- 
ence, whether land and sea interact, and worlds revolve 
and intermingle without nimiber or end, — deep yawning 
under deep, and galaxy balancing galaxy, throughout abso- 
lute space, — or, whether, without relations of time and 
space, the same appearances are inscribed in the constant 
faith of man? Whether nature enjoy a substantial exist- 
ence without, or is only in the apocalypse of the mind, it 
is alike useful and alike venerable to me. Be it what it 
may, it is ideal to me, so long as I cannot try the accuracy 
of my senses. 

The frivolous make themselves merry with the Ideal 
theory, as if its consequences were burlesque; as if it 
affected the stability of nature. It surely does not. God 
never jests with us, and will not compromise the end of 
nature, by permitting any inconsequenqe in its procession. 
Any distrust of the permanence of laws, would paralyze 
the faculties of man. Their permanence is sacredly re- 
spected, and his faith therein is perfect. The wheels and 
springs of man are all set to the hypothesis of the x)er- 
manence of nature. We are not bidlt like a ship to be 
tossed, but like a house to stand. It is a natural conse- 
quence of the structure, that, so long as the active powers 
predominate over the reflective, we resist with indignation 
any hint that nature is more short-lived or mutable than 
spirit. The broker, the wheelwright, the carpenter, the 
tollman, are much displeased at the intimation. 

But whilst we acquiese entirely in the x)ermanence of 
natural laws, the question of the absolute existence of 
nature still remains open. It is the imiform effect of 
culture on the himian mind, not to shake our faith in the 
stability of particular phenomena, as of heat, water, azote; 
but to lead us to regard nature as a phenomenon, not a 
substance; to attribute necessary existence to spirit; to 



IDEALISM 27 

esteem nature as an accident and an effect. 

To the senses and the unrenewed understanding, belongs 
a sort of instinctive beUef in the absolute existence of 
nature. In their view, man and nature are indissolubly 
jfcined. Things are ultimates, and they never look beyond 
their sphere. The presence of Reason mars this faith. The 
first effort of thought tends to relax this despotism of the 
senses, which binds us to nature as if we were a part of it, 
and shows us nature aloof, and, as it were, afloat. Until 
this higher agency intervened, the animal eye sees, with 
wonderful accuracy, sharp outlines and colored surfaces. 
When the eye of Reason opens, to outline and surface are 
at once added, grace and expression. These proceed from 
imagination and affection, and abate somewhat of the angu- 
lar distinctness of objects. If the Reason be stimulated to 
more earnest vision, outlines and surface become trans- 
parent, and are no longer seen; causes and spirits are seen 
throu^ them. The best moments of life are these de- 
licious awakenings of the higher powers, and the reverential 
withdrawing of nature before its God. 

Let us proceed to indicate the effects of culture. 1. Our 
first institution in the Ideal philosophy is a hint from 
nature herself. 

Nature is made to conspire with spirit to emancipate us. 
Certain mechanical changes, a small alteration in our local 
position apprises us of a dualism. We are strangely 
affected by seeing the shore from a moving ship, from a 
balloon, or through the tints of an unusual sky. The least 
change in our point of view, gives the whole world a pic- 
torial air. A man who seldom rides, needs only to get into 
a coach and traverse his own town, to turn the street into a 
puppet show. The men, the women, — talking, running, 
bartering, fighting, — the earnest mechanic, the lounger, 
the beggar, the boys, the dogs, are unrealized at once, or, 
at least, wholly detached from all relation to the observer, 
and seen as apparent, not substantial beings. What new 
thoughts are suggested by seeing a face of country quite 
familiar, in the rapid movement of the railroad car! Nay, 
the most wonted objects (make a very sUght change in 



28 NATURE 

the point of vision) please ns most. In a camera obscura, 
the butcher's cart, and the figure of one of our own family- 
amuse us. So a portrait of a well-known face gratifies us. 
Turn the eyes upside down, by looking at the landscape 
through your legs, and how agreeable is the picture, though 
you have seen it any time these twenty years! 

In these cases, by mechanical means, is suggested the 
difference between the observer and the spectacle, — ^between 
man and nature. Hence arises a pleasure mixed with awe; 
I may say, a low degree of the sublime is felt from the fact, 
probably, that man is hereby apprised, that, whilst the 
world is a spectacle, something in himself is stable. 

2. In a higher manner, the poet communicates the same 
pleasure. By a few strokes, he delineates, as on air, the. 
mountain, the camp, the city, the hero, the maiden, not 
different from what we know them, but only lifted from the 
ground and afloat before the eye. He unfixes the land and 
the sea, makes them revolve aroimd the axis of his primary 
thought, and disposes them anew. Possessed himself by a 
heroic passion, he uses matter as symbols of it. The sen- 
sual man conforms thoughts to things; the poet conforms 
things to his thoughts. The one esteems nature as rooted 
and fast; the other, as fluid, and impresses his being 
thereon. To him, the refractory world is ductile and flex- 
ible, he invests dust and stones with humanity, and makes 
them the words of the Reason. The Imagination may be 
defined to be, the use which the Reason makes of the ma- 
terial world. Shakespeare possesses the power of subor- 
dinating nature for the purposes of expression, beyond all 
poets. His imperial muse tosses the creation like a bauble 
from hand to hand, and uses it to embody any caprice of 
thought that is uppermost in his mind. The remotest 
spaces of nature are visited, and the farthest sundered 
things are brought together, by a subtle spiritual connec- 
tion. We are made aware that magnitude of material 
things is relative, and all objects shrink and expand to 
serve the passion of the poet. Thus, in his sonnets, the 
lays of birds, the scents and dyes of flowers, he finds to 
be the shadow of his beloved; time, which keeps her from 



IDEALISM 29 

him, is his chest; the suspicion she has awakened, is her 
ofTiament; 

The ornament of beauty is Suspect, 

A crow that flies in heaven's sweetest air. 

His passion is not the fruit of chance; it swells, as he 
speaks, to a city, or a state. 

No, it was builded far from accident; 

It suffers not in smUing pomp, nor falls 

Under the brow of thraUing discontent; 

It fears not policy, that heretic. 

That works on leases of short numbered hours, 

But all alone stands hugely politic. 

In the strength of his constancy, the Pyramids seem to 
him recent and transitory. The freshness of youth and 
love dazzles him with its resemblance to morning. 

Take those hpe away 
Which so sweetly were forsworn; 
And those eyes, — the break of day, 
Lights that do mislead the mom. 

The wild beauty of this hyperbole, I may say, in passing, 
it would not be easy to match in hterature. 

This transfiguration which all material objects undergo 
through the passion of the poet, — this power which he 
exerts to dwarf the great, to magnify the small, — might be 
illustrated by a thousand examples from his Plays. I have 
before me the Tempest, and will cite only these few lines. 

Abiel. The strong based promontory 

Have I made shake, and by the spurs plucked up 
The pine and cedar. 

Prospero calls for music to soothe the frantic Alonzo, and 
his companions; 



Again; 



A solemn air, and the best comforter 
To an unsettled fancy, cure thy brains 
Now useless, boiled within thy skull. 



The charm dissolves apace. 
And, as the morning steals upon the night. 
Melting the darkness, ^q ij^^eu risiiig senseB 



30 NATURE 

Begin to chase the ignorant fumes that mantle 
Their clearer reason. 

Their understanding 
Begins to swell: and the approaching tide 
Will shortly fill the reasonable shores 
That now lie foul and muddy. 

The perception of real affinities between events, (that is 
to say, of ideal affinities, for those only are real,) enables 
the poet thus to make free with the most imposing forms 
and phenomena of the world, and to assert the predom- 
inance of the soul. 

3. Whilst thus the poet animates nature with his own 
thoughts, he differs from the philosopher only herein, that 
the one proposes Beauty as his main end; the other, Truth. 
But the philosopher, not less than the poet, postpones the 
apparent order and relations of things to the empire of 
thought. "The problem of philosophy," according to Plato, 
"is, for all that exists conditionally, to find a ground un- 
conditioned and absolute." It j)roceeds on the faith that 
a law determines all phenomena, which being known, the 
phenomena can be predicted. That law, when in the mind, 
is an idea. Its beauty is infinite. The true philosopher 
and the true poet are one, and a beauty, which is truth, 
and a truth, which is beauty, is the aim of both. Is not the 
charm of one of Plato's or Aristotle's definitions, strictly like 
that of the Antigone of Sophocles? It is, in both cases, that 
a spiritual life has been imparted to nature; that the soUd 
seeming block of matter has been pervaded and dissolved 
by a thought; that this feeble human being has i)enetrated 
the vast masses of nature with an informing soul, and 
recognized itself in their harmony, that is, seized their law. 
In Physics, when this is attained, the memory disburthens 
itself of its cumbrous catalogues of particulars and carries 
centuries of observation in a single formula. 

Thus even in physics, the material is degraded before the 
spiritual. The astronomer, the geometer, rely, on their 
irrefragable analysis, and disdain the results of observation. 
The sublime remark of Euler on his law of arches, "This will 
be found contrary to all experience, yet is true," had 



IDEALISM 31 

already transferred nature into the mind, and left matter 
like an outcast corpse. 

4. Intellectual science has been observed to beget in- 
variably a doubt of the existence of matter. Turgot said, 
"He that has never doubted the existence of matter, may 
be assured he has no aptitude for metaphysical inquiries." 
It fastens the attention upon inmiortal necessary uncreated 
natures, that is, upon Ideas; and in their presence, we feel 
Ahat the outward circumstance is a dream and a shade. 
Whilst we wait in this Olympus of gods, we think of nature 
as an appendix to the soul. We ascend into their re^on, 
and know that these are the thoughts of the Supreme Be- 
ing. "These are they who were set up from everlasting, 
from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When he pre- 
pard the heavens, they were there; when he established the 
clouds above, when he strengthened the fountains of the 
deep, then they were by him, as one brought up with him. 
Of them took he counsel." 

Their influence is proportionate. As objects of science, 
they are accessible to few men. Yet all men are capable 
of being raised by piety or by passion, into their region. 
And no man touches these divine natures, without becom- 
ing, in some degree, himself divine. Like a new soul, they 
renew the body. We become physically nimble and light- 
some; we tread on air; life is no longer irksome, and we 
think it will never be so. No man fears age or misfortune 
or death, in their serene company, for he is transported out 
of the district of change. Whilst we behold unveiled the 
nature of Justice and Truth, we learn the difference between 
the absolute and the conditional or relative. We appre- 
hend the absolute. As it were, for the first time, we exist. 
We become immortal, for we learn that time and space are 
relations of matter; that, with a perception of truth, or a 
virtuous will, they have no affinity. 

5. Finally, religion and ethics, which may be fitly called, 
— the practice of ideas, or the introduction of ideas into 
life, — have an analogous effect with all lower culture, in 
degrading nature and suggesting its dependence on spirit. 
Ethics and religion differ herein; that the one is the system 



32 NATURE 

of human duties commencing from man; the other, from 
God. Religion includes the personality of God; Ethics does 
not. They are one to our present design. They both put 
nature imder foot. The first and last lesson of religion 
is, 'The things that are seen, are temporal; the things that 
are unseen, are eternal." It puts an affront upon nature. 
It does that for the unschooled, which philosophy does for 
Berkeley and Viasa. The uniform language that may be 
heard in the churches of the most ignorant sects, is, — 
"Contenm the unsusbstantial shows of the world; they are 
vanities, dreams, shadows, imrealities; seek the realities of 
reUgion." The devotee flouts nature. Some theosophists 
have arrived at a certain hostility and indignation towards 
matter, as the Manichean and Plotinus. They distrusted 
in themselves any looking back to these flesh-pots of Egypt. 
Plotinus was ashamed of his body. In short, they mi^t 
all say of matter, what Michad Angelo said of external 
beauty, "it is the frail and weary weed, in which God 
dresses the soul, which he has called into time." 

It appears that motion, poetry, physical and intellectual 
science, and religion, all tend to affect our convictions of 
the reality of the external world. But I own there is 
something ungrateful in expanding too curiously the par- 
ticulars of the general proposition, that all culture tends 
to imbue us with idealism. I have no hostility to nature, 
but a child's love to it. I expand and live in the warm 
day like com and melons. Let us speak her fair. I do 
not wish to fling stones at my beautiful mother, nor soil 
my gentle nest. I only wish to indicate the true position 
of nature in regard to man, wherein to establish man, all 
right education tends; as the ground which to attain is 
the object of human life, that is, of man's connection with 
nature. Culture inverts the vulgar views of nature, and 
brings the mind to call that apparent, which it uses to call 
real, and that real, which it uses to call visionary. Chil- 
dren, it is true, believe in the external world. The belief 
that it appears only, is an afterthought, but with culture, 
this faith will as surely arise on the mind as did the first. 

The advantage of the ideal theory over the popular 



SPIRIT 33 

« 

faith, is this, that it presents the world in precisely that 
view which is most desirable to the mind. It is, in fact, 
the view which Reason, both speculative and practical, 
that is, philosophy and virtue, take. For, seen in the light 
of thought, the world always is phenomenal; and virtue 
subordinates it to the mind. Idealism sees the world in 
God. It beholds the whole circle of persons and things, of 
actions and events, of country and reUgion, not as painfully 
accumulated, atom after atom, act after act, in an aged 
creeping Past, but as one vast picture, which God paints 
on ike instant eternity, for the contemplation of the soul. 
Therefore the soul holds itself off from a too trivial and 
microscopic study of the imiversal tablet. It respects the 
end too much, to inmierse itself in the means. It sees 
something more important in Christianity, than the scandals 
of ecclesiastical history, or the niceties of criticism; and, 
very incurious concerning persons or miracles, and not at 
all disturbed by chasms of historical evidence, it accepts 
from God the phenomenon, as it finds it, as the pure and 
awful form of religion in the world. It is not hot and 
passionate at the appearance of what it calls its own good 
or bad fortune, at the imion or opposition of other persons. 
No man is its enemy. It accepts whatsoever befalls, as 
part of its lesson. It is a watcher more than a doer, and 
it is a doer, only that it may the better watch. 



CHAPTER VII 

SPIRIT 

It is essential to a true theory of nature and of man, 
that it should contain somewhat progressive. Uses that 
are exhausted or that may be, and facts that end in the 
statement, cannot be all that is true of this brave lodging 
wherein man is harbored, and wherein all his faculties find 
appropriate and endless exercise. And all the uses of nature 
admit of being summed in one, which yields the activity of 
man an infinite scope. Through all its kingdoms, to the 



34 NATURE 

suburbs and outskirts of things, it is faithful to the cause 
whence it had its origin. It always speaks of Spirit. It 
suggests the absolute. It is a perpetual effect. It is a 
great shadow pointing always to the sun behind us. 

The aspect of nature is devout. Like the figure of 
Jesus, she stands with bended head, and hands folded upon 
the breast. The happiest man is he who learns from nature 
the lesson of worship. 

Of that ineffable essence which we call Spirit, he that 
thinks most, will say least. We can foresee God in the 
coarse, and, as it were, distant phenomena of matter; but 
when we try to define and describe himself, both language 
and thought desert us, and we are as helpless as fools and 
savages. That essence refuses to be recorded in proposi- 
tions, but when man has worshipped him intellectually, 
the noblest ministry of nature is to stand as the appari- 
tion of God. It is the organ through which the universal 
spirit speaks to the individual, and strives to lead back 
the individual to it. 

When we consider Spirit, we see that the views already 
presented do not include the whole circumference of man. 
We must add some related thoughts. 

Three problems are put by nature to the mind; What 
is matter? Whence is it? and Whereto? The first of 
these questions only, the ideal theory answers. Idealism 
saith: matter is a phenomenon, not a substance. Ideal- 
ism acquaints us with the total disparity between the 
evidence of our own being, and the evidence of the world's 
being. The one is perfect; the other, incapable of any 
assurance; the mind is a part of the nature of things; 
the world is a divine dream, from which we may presently 
awake to the glories and certainties of day. Idealism is 
a hjrpothesis to account for nature by other principles 
than those of carpentry and chemistry. Yet, if it only 
deny the existence of matter, it does not satisfy the de- 
mands of the spirit. It leaves God gut of me. It leaves 
me in the splendid labyrinth of my perceptions, to wan- 
der without end. Then the heart resists it, because it 
balks the affections in denying substantive being to men 
and women. Nature is so pervaded with human life, 



SPIRIT 35 

that there is something of humanity in all, and in every 
particular. But this theory makes nature foreign to me, 
and does not account for that consanguinity which we 
acknowledge to it. 

Let it stand, then, in the present state of our knowledge, 
merely as a useful introductory hypothesis, serving to 
apprise us of the eternal distinction between the soul and 
the world. 

But when following the invisible steps of thought, we 
come t9 inquire. Whence is matter? and Whereto? many 
truths arise to us out of the recesses of consciousness. We 
learn that the highest is present to the soul of man, that 
the dread universal essence, which is not wisdom, or love, 
or power, but all in one, and each entirely, is that for 
which all things exist, and that by which they are; that 
spirit creates; that behind nature, throughout nature, 
spirit is present; one and not compound, it does not act 
upon us from without, that is, in space and time, but 
spiritually, or through ourselves: therefore, that spirit, 
that is, the Supreme Being, does not build up nature 
around us, but puts it forth through us, as the life of the 
tree puts forth new branches and leaves through the pores 
of the old. As a plant upon the earth, so a man rests 
upon the bosom of God; he is nourished by unfailing 
fountains, and draws, at his need, inexhaustible power. 
Who can set bounds to the possibilities of man? Once 
inhale the upper air, being admitted to behold the abso- 
lute natures of justice and truth, and we learn that man 
has access to the entire mind of the Creator, is himself 
the creator in the finite. This view, which admonishes 
me where the sources of wisdom and power lie, and points 
to virtue as to 

"The golden key 
Which opes the palace of eternity, 

carries upon its face the highest certificate of truth, be- 
cause it animates me to create my own world through 
the purification of my soul. 
The world proceeds from the same spirit as the body 



»f 



36 NATURE 

of man. Is is a remoter and inferior incarnation of God, 
a projection of God in the miconscious. But it differs 
from the body in one important respect. It is not, like 
that, now subjected to the human will. Its serene order 
is inviolable by us. It is, therefore, to us, the present 
expositor of the divine mind. It is a fixed point whereby 
we may measure our departure. As we degenerate, the 
contrast between us and our house is more evident. We 
are as much strangers in nature, as we are aliens from 
God. We do not understand the notes of birds. The 
fox and the deer run away from us; the bear and tiger 
rend us. We do not know the uses of more than a few 
plants, as com and the apple, the potato and the vine. 
Is not the landscape, every glimpse of which hath a gran- 
deur, a face of him? Yet this may show us what discord 
is between man and nature, for you cannot freely admire 
a noble landscape, if laborers are digging in the field 
hard by. The poet finds something ridiculous in his de- 
hght, until he is out of the sight of men. 



CHAPTER VIII 

PROSPECTS 

« 

In inquiries respecting the laws ot the world and the 
frame of things, the highest reason is always the truest. 
That which seems faintly possible — it is so refined, is 
often faint and dim because it is deepest seated in the 
mind among the eternal verities. Empirical science is apt 
to cloud the sight, and, by the very knowledge of func- 
tions and processes, to bereave the student of the manly 
contemplation of the whole. The savant becomes impoetic. 
But the best read naturalist who lends an entire and 
devout attention to truth, will see that there remains 
much to learn of his relation to the world, and that it is 
not to be learned by any addition or subtraction or other 
comparison of known quantities, but is arrived at by un- 
tau^t sallies of the spirit, by a continual self-recoveryi 



PROSPECTS 37 

and by entire humility. He will perceive that there are 
iar more excellent qualities in the student than precise- 
ness and infaUibility; that a guess is often more fruitful 
than an indisputable affirmation, and that a dream may 
let us deeper into the secret of nature than a hundred 
concerted experiments. 

For, the problems to be solved are precisely those which 
the physiologist and the naturalist omit to state. It is 
not so pertinent to man to know all the individuals of 
the animal kingdom, as it is to know whence and whereto 
is this tyrannizing rniity in his constitution, which ever- 
more separates and classifies things, endeavoring to reduce 
the most diverse to one form. When I behold a rich 
landscape, it is less to my purpose to recite correctly the 
order and superposition of the strata, than to know why all 
thought of multitude is lost in a tranquil sense of unity. 
I cannot greatly honor minuteness in details, so long as 
there is no hint to explain the relation between things 
and thoughts; no ray upon the metaphysics of conchology, 
of botany, of the arts, to show the relation of the forms of 
flowers, shells, animals, architecture, to the mind, and 
build science upon ideas. In a cabinet of natural his- 
tory, we become sensible of a certain occult recognition 
and sympathy in regard to the most unwieldy and eccen- 
tric forms of beast, fish, and insect. The American who 
has been confined, in his own country, to the sight of 
buildings designed after foreign models, is surprised on 
entering York Minster or St. Peter's at Rome, by the feel- 
ing that these structures are imitations also, — faint copies 
of an invisible archetype. Nor has science sufficient hu- 
manity, so long as the naturalist overlooks that wonderful 
congruity which subsists between man and the world; of 
which he is lord, not because he is the most subtile in- 
habitant, but because he is its head and heart, and finds 
something of himself in every great and small thing, in 
every mountain stratum, in every new law of color, fact 
of astronomy, or atmospheric influence which observation 
or analysis lay open. A perception of this mystery in- 
spires the muse of George Herbert, the beautiful psalmist 



38 NATURE 

of the seventeenth century. The following lines are part 
of his little poem on Man. 

**Man is all symmetry, 
Full of proportions, one limb to another, 

And to all the world besides. 

Each part may call the farthest, brother; 
For head with foot bath private amity, 

And both with moons and tides. 

"Nothing hath got so far 
But man hath caught and kept it as his prey; 
His eyes dismount the highest star; 

He is in Uttle all the sphere. 
Herbs gladly cure our flesh, because that they 

Find their acquaintance there. 

"For us, the winds do blow, 
The earth doth rest, heaven move, and fountains flow; 

Nothing we see, but means our good. 

As our delight, or as our treasure; 
The whole is either our cupboard of food, 

Or cabinet of pleasure. 

"The stars have us to bed: 
Night draws the curtain; which the sun withdraws. 

Music and light attend our head. 

All things unto our flesh are kind, 
In their descent and being; to our mind. 

In their ascent and cause. 

"More servants wait on man 
Than he'll take notice of. In every path. 

He treads down that which doth befriend him 

When sickness makes him pale and wan. 
Oh mighty love! Man is one world, and hath 

Another to attend him." 

The perception of this class of truths makes the attrac- 
tion which draws men to science, but the end is lost 
sight of in attention to the means. In view of this 
half-sight of science, we accept the sentence of Plato, that, 
"poetry comes nearer to vital truth than history." Every 
surmise and vaticination of the mind is entitled to a cer- 
tain respect, and we learn to prefer imperfect theories, 
and sentences, which contain glimx)ses of truth, to digested 



PROSPECTS 39 

systems which have no one valuable suggestion. A wise 
writer will feel that the ends of study and composition 
are best answered by announcing undiscovered regions of 
thought, and so conmiunicating, through hope, new ac- 
tivity to the torpid spirit. 

I shall therefore conclude this essay with some tradi- 
tions of man and nature, which a certain poet sang to 
me; and which, as they have always been in the world, 
and perhaps reappear to every bard, may be both history 
and prophecy. 

"The foundations of man are not in matter, but in spirit. 
But the element of spirit is eternity. To it, therefore, the 
longest series of events, the oldest chronologies are young 
and recent. In the cycle of the universal man, from whom 
the known individuals proceed, centuries are points, and 
all history is but the epoch of one degradation. 

"We distrust and deny inwardly our sympathy with 
nature. We own and disown our relation to it, by turns. 
We are, like Nebuchadnezzar, dethroned, bereft of reason, 
and eating grass like an ox. But who can set linuts to the 
remedial force of spirit? 

"A man is a god in ruins. When men are innocent, 
life shall be longer, and shall pass into the inmiortal, as 
gently bs we awake from dreams. Now, the world would 
be insane and rabid, if these disorganizations should last 
for hundreds of years. It is kept in check by death and 
infancy. Infancy is the perpetual Messiah, which comes 
into the arms of fallen men, and pleads with them to 
return to paradise. 

"Man is the dwarf of himself. Once he was permeated 
and dissolved by spirit. He filled nature with his over- 
flowing currents. Out from him sprang the sun and moon; 
from man, the sun; from woman, the moon. The laws of 
his mind, the periods of his actions extemized themselves 
into day and night, into the year and the seasons. But, 
having made for himself this huge shell, his waters re- 
tired; he no longer fills the veins and veinlets; he is shrunk 
to a drop. He sees, that the structure still fits him, but 
fits him colossally. Say, rather, once it fitted him, now 



40 NATURE 

it corresponds to him from far and on high. He adores 
timidly his own work. Now is man the follower of the 
sun, and woman the follower of the moon. Yet some- 
times he starts in his slumber, and wonders at himself and 
his house, and muses strangely at the resemblance betwixt 
him and it. He perceives that if his law is still paramoimt, 
if still he have elemental power, if his word is sterling yet 
in nature, it is not conscious power, it is not inferior 
but superior to his will. It is Instinct." Thus my Orphic 
poet sang. 

At present, man applies to nature but half his force. 
He works on the world with his understanding alone. He 
lives in it, and masters it by a penny-wisdom; and he 
that works most in it, is but a half -man, and whilst 
his arms are strong and his digestion good, his mind is 
imbruted, and he is a selfish savage. His relation to 
nature, his power over it, is through the understanding; 
as by manure; the economic use of fire, wind, water, and 
the mariner's needle; steam, coal, chemical agriculture; 
the repairs of the human body by the dentist and the 
surgeon. This is such a resumption of power, as if a 
banished king should buy his territories inch by inch, 
instead of vaulting at once into his throne. Meantime, 
in the thick darkness, there are not wanting gleams of a 
better light, — occasional examples of the action of man 
upon nature with his entire force, — with reason as well 
as understanding. Such examples are; the traditions of 
miracles in the earliest antiquity of all nations; the history 
of Jesus Christ; the achievements of a principle, as in 
religious and political revolutions, and in the abolition 
of the Slave-trade; the miracles of enthusiasm, as those 
reported of Swedenborg, Hohenlohe, and the Shakers; 
many obscure and yet contested facts, now arranged under 
the name of Animal Magnetism; prayer; eloquence; self- 
healing; and the wisdom of children. These are examples 
of Reason's momentary grasp of the sceptre; the exer- 
tions of a power which exists not in time or space, but 
an instantaneous in-streaming causing power. The differ- 
ence between the actual and the ideal force of man is 



PROSPECTS 41 

happily figured by the schoobnen, in saying, that the 
knowledge of man is an evening knowledge, vespertina 
cognitio, but that of God is a morning knowledge, matvr 
Una cognitio. 

The problem of restoring to the world original and 
eternal beauty, is solved by the redemption of the soul. 
The ruin or the blank, that we see when we look at 
nature, is in our own eye. The axis of vision is not co- 
incident with the axis of things, and so they appear not 
transparent but opaque. The reason why the world lacks 
unity, and lies broken and in heaps, is, because man is 
disunited with himself. He cannot be a naturalist, until 
he satisfies all the demands of the spirit. Love is as much 
its demand, as perception. Indeed, neither can be perfect 
without the other. In the uttermost meaning of the words, 
thought is devout, and devotion is thought. Deep calls 
unto deep. But in actual life, the marriage is not cele- 
brated. There are innocent men who worship God after 
the tradition of their fathers, but their sense of duty has 
not yet extended to the use of all their faculties. And 
there are patient naturalists, but they freeze their subject 
under the wintry light of the understanding. Is not prayer 
also a study of truth, — a sally of the soul into the unfound 
infinite? No man ever prayed heartily, without learning 
something. But when a faithful thinker, resolute to de- 
tach every object from personal relations, and see it in the 
light of thought, shall, at the same time, kindle science 
with the fire of the holiest affections, then will God go 
forth anew into the creation. 

It will not need, when the mind is prepared for study, 
to search for objects. The invariable mark of wisdom is 
to see the miraculous in the conmion. What is a day? 
What is a year? What is sunmier? What is woman? 
What is a child? What is sleep? To our blindness, these 
things seem unaffected. We make fables to hide the bald- 
ness of the fact and conform it, as we say,, to the higher 
law of the mind. But when the fact is seen under the 
light of an idea, the gaudy fable fades and shrivels. We 
behold the real higher law. To the wise, therefore, a fact 



42 NATURE 

is true poetry, and the most beautiful of fables. These 
wonders are brought to our own door. You also are a 
man. Man and woman, and their social hfe, poverty, 
labor, sleep, fear, fortune, are known to you. Learn that 
none of these things is superficial, but that each phenome- 
non has its roots in the faculties and affections of the 
mind. Whilst the abstract question occupies your intel- 
lect, nature brings it in the concrete to be solved by your 
hands. It were a wise inquiry for the closet, to compare, 
point by point, especially at remarkable crises in life, our 
daily history, with the rise and progress of ideas in the 
mind. 

So shall we come to look at the world with new eyes. 
It shall answer the endless inquiry of the intellect, — ^What 
is truth? and of the affections, — What is good? by yield- 
ing itself passive to the educated Will. Then shall come 
to pass what my poet said; "Nature is not fixed but fluid. 
Spirit alters, moulds, makes it. The immobility or brute- 
ness of nature, is the absence of spirit; to pure spirit, it is 
fluid, it is volatile, it is obedient. Every spirit builds 
itself a house; and beyond its house a world; and beyond 
its world a heaven. Know then, that the world exists for 
you. For you is the phonemenon perfect. What we are, 
that only can we see. All that Adam had, all that CsBsar 
could, you have and can do. Adam called his house, 
heaven and earth; Caesar called his house, Rome; you 
perhaps call yours, a cobbler's trade; a hundred acres 
of ploughed land; or a scholar's garret. Yet line for 
line and point for point, your dominion is as great as 
theirs, though without fine names. Build, therefore, your 
own world. As fast as you conform your life to the 
pure idea in your mind, that will unfold its great propor- 
tions. A correspondent revolution in things will attend 
the influx of the spirit. So fast will disagreeable appear- 
ances, swine, spiders, snakes, pets, madhouses, prisons, 
enemies, vanish; they are temporary and shall be no more 
seen. The sordor and filths of nature, the sun shall dry 
up, and the wind exhale. As when the summer comes 
from the south; the snow-banks melt, and the face of 



PROSPECTS 43 

the earth becomes green before it, so shall the advancing 
spirit create its ornaments along its path, and carry with 
it the beauty it visits, and the song which enchants it; 
it shall draw beautiful faces, warm hearts, wise discourse, 
and heroic acts, around its way, until evil is no more seen. 
The kingdom of man over nature, which cometh not with 
observation, — a dominion such as now is beyond his dream 
of God, — he shall enter without more wonder than the 
blind man feels who is gradually restored to perfect 
sight." 



n 

THE OVER-SOUL 

*'But sovds that of his own good life partake 
He loves as his own self; dear as his eye 
They are to Him: He'll never them forsake: 
When they shall die, then God himself shall die: 
They live, they live in blest eternity." — HsmtT Mobe. 

There is a difference between one and another hour 
of Hfe in their authority and subsequent effect. Our^faife 

* comes in moments; our vice is habitual. Yet is there a 
depth in those brief moments, which constrains us to 
ascribe more reaUty to them than to all other experiences. 
For this reason, the argument, which is always forth- 
coming to silence those who conceive extraordinary hopes 
of man, namely, the appeal to experience, is forever invalid 
and vain. A mightier hope abolishes despair. We give 
up the past to the objector, and yet we hope. He must 
explain this hope. We grant that human life is mean; 
but how did we find out that it was mean? What is 
the ground of this uneasiness of ours, of this old dis- 
content? What is the universal sense of want and ignor- 
ance, but the fine innuendo by which the great soul makes 
its enormous claim? Why do men feel that the natural 
history of man has never been written, but always he is 
leaving behind what you have said of him, and it becomes 
old, and books of metaphysics worthless? The philosophy 
of six thousand years has not searched the chambers and 
magazines of the soul. In its experiments there has always 
remained in the last analysis a residuum it could not re- 

• solve. Man is ..a. stream whose source is hidden. Always 
our being is descending into us from we know not whence. 
The most exact calculator has no prescience that some- 
what incalculable may not baulk the very next moment. 
T am constrained every moment to acknowledge a higher 

4A 



THE OVER-SOXJL 45 

origin for events than the will I call mine. 

As with events, so is it with thoughts. When I watch 
that flowing river, which, out of regions I see not, pours 
for a season its streams into me, — I see that I am a 
pensioner, — not a cause, but a surprised spectator of this 
ethereal water; that I desire and look up, and put myself 
in the attitude of reception, but from some ahen energy 
the visions come. 

The Supreme Critic on all the errors of the past and • 
the present, and the only prophet of that which must 
be, is that great nature in which we rest, as the earth hes 
in the soft arms of the atmosphere; that Unity, that 
Over-Soul, within which every man's particular being is 
contained and made one ^vith all other; that coromon 
heart, of which all sincere conversation is the worship, to 
which all right action is submission; that overpowering 
reahty which confutes our tricks and talents, and con- 
strains every one to pass for what he is, and to speak 
from his character and not from his tongue; and which 
evermore tends and aims to pass into our thought and 
hand, and become wisdom, and virtue, and power, and 
beauty. We Uve in succession, in division, in parts, in 
particles. Meantime, within man is the soul of the ' 
whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which 
every part and particle is equally related; the eternal 
One. And this deep power in which we exist, and whose 
beatitude is all accessible to us, is not only self-sufficing 
and perfect in every hour, but the act of seeing and the 
thing seen, the seer and the spectacle, the subject and the 
object, are one. We see the world piece by piece, as 
the sun^ the moon, the animal, the tree; but the whole, • 
of which these are the shining parts, is the soul. It is 
only by the vision of that Wisdom, that the horoscope of 
the ages can be read, and it is only by falling back on our 
better thoughts, by yielding to the spirit of prophecy which 
is innate in every man, that we can know what it saith. 
Every man's words, who speaks from that life, must sound 
vain to those who do not dwell in the same thought on 
tbw wn part. I dare not speak for it, My wprds dQ 



46 THE OVER-SOXJL 

not carry its august sense; they fall short and cold. Only 
itself can inspire whom it wUl^ and, behold, their speech 
shall be lyrical, and sweet, and universal as the rising of 
the wind. Yet I desire, even by profane words, if sacred 
I may not use, to indicate the heaven of this deity, and 
to report what hints I have collected of the transcendent 
simpUcity and energy of the Highest Law. 

If we consider what happens in conversation, in 
reveries,, in remorse, in times of passion, in surprises, in 
the instructions of dreams, wherein often we see ourselves 
in masquerade, — the droU disguises only magnif3dng and 
enhancing a real element, and forcing it on our distinct 
notice, — we shall catch many hints that will broaden and 
Ughten into knowledge of the secret of nature. All goes 
to show that the soul in man is not an organ, but 
animates and exercises all the organs; is not a function, 
hke the power of memory, of calculation, of comparison, 
— but uses these as hands and feet; is not a faculty, but 
a light; is not the intellect or the will, but the master of 
the intellect and the will; is the vast background of our 
being, in which they lie, — an immensity not possessed 
and that cannot be possessed. From within or from 
behind, a light shines through us upon things, and 
makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all. 
A man is the facade of a temple, wherein all wisdom and 
all good abide. What we commonly call man, — the eat- 
ing, drinking, planting, counting man, — does not, as we 
know him, represent himself, but misrepresents himself. 
Him we do not respect; but the soul, whose organ he is, 
would he let it appear through his action, would make 
our knees bend. When it breathes through his intellect, 
it is genius; when it breathes through his will, it is mtye; 
when it flows through his affection, it is, love. And the 
bhndness of the intellect begins, when it would be some- 
thing of itself. The weakness of the will begins, when the 
individual would be something of himself. All reform 
aims, in some one particular, to let the great soul have its 
way through us; in other words, to engage us to obey. 
. Of this pure nature every man is at some time sensible. 



THE OVER-SOUL 47 

• 
Language cannot paint it with his colors. It is too subtle. 
It is undefinable, unmeasurable; but we know that it 
pervades and contains us. We know that all spiritual 
being is in man. A wise old proverb says, "God comes 
to see us without bell:" that is, there is no screen or 
ceiling between our heads and the infinite heavens, so is 
there no bar or wall in the soul where man, the effect, * 
ceases, and God, the cause, begins. The walls are taken 
away. We lie open on one side to the deeps of spiritual * 
nature, loall the attributes of God. Justice we see and 
Enow, Love, Freedom, Power. These natures no man 
ever got above, but always they tower over us, and most 
in the moment when our interests tempt us to wound 
them. 

The sovereignty of this nature whereof we speak is 
made known by its independency of those limitations which 
circumscribe us on every hand. The soul circumscribeth 
an things. As I have said, it contradicts all experience. 
In like manner it abolishes time and space. The influence 
of the senses has, in most men, overpowered the mind 
to that degree, that the walls of time and space have come 
to look solid, real, and insurmountable; and to speak with 
levity of these limits is, in the world, the sign of insanity. 
Yet time and space are but inverse measures of the force 
of the soul. A man is capable of aboUshing them both. 
The spirit sports with time — 

"Can crowd eternity into an hour, 
Or stretch an hour to eternity." 

We are often made to feel that there is another youth 
and age than that which is measured from the year of 
our natural birth. Some thoughts always find us young, 
and keep us so. Such a thought is the lovje of the uni- 
versal and eternal beauty. Every man parts from that 
contemplation with the feeling that it rather belongs to 
ages than to mortal life. The least activity of the intel- 
lectual powers redeems us in a degree from the influences 
of time. In sickness, in languor, give us a strain of poetry 
or a profourd sentence, and we are refreshed; or produce 



48 THE 0VER-50UL 

• 
a volume of Plato or Shakespeare, or remind us of their 

names, and instantly we come into a feeling of longevity. 
See how the deep, divine thought demolishes centuries 
and millenniums^ and makes itself present through all ages. 
Is the teaching of Christ less effective now than it was 
when first his mouth was opened? The emphasis of facts 
and persons ^to my soul has nothing to do with time. And 
so, always, the soul's scale is one; the scale of the senses 
and the understanding is another. Before the great revela- 
tions of the soul, Time, Space, and Nature shrink away. 
In common speech, we refer all things to time, as we 
habitually refer the immensely sundered stars to one con- 
cave sphere. And so we say that the Judgment is distant 
or near; that the Millennium approaches; that a day of 
certain pohtical, moral, social reforms is at hand; and the 
like; when we mean, thiit in the nature of things, one of 
the facts we contemplate is external and fugitive, and the 
other is permanent and connate with the soul. The things 
we now esteem fixed shall, one by one, detach themselves, 
like ripe fruit, from our experience, and fall. The wind 
shall blow them none knows whither. The landscape, the 
figures, Boston, London, are facts as fugitive as any insti- 
tution past, or any whiff of mist or smoke, and so is society, 
and so is the world. The SQul looketh steadily-~forwM?ds, 
creating a world alway before her, and leaving worlds 
alway behind her. She has no dates, nor rites, nor persons, 
nor specialties, nor men. The soul knows only the soul. 
All else is idle weeds for her wearing. 

After its own law, and not by arithmetic, is the rate of 
its progress to be computed. The soul's advances are 
not made by gradation, such as can be represented by 
motion in a straight line; but rather by ascension of 
state, such as can be represented by metamorphosis, — 
from the egg to the worm, from the worm to the fly. The 
growths of genius are of a certain total character, that 
does not advance the elect individual first over John, 
then Adam, then Richard, and give to each the pain 
of discovered inferiority, but by every throe of growth 
the man expands there where he works, passing, at each 



THE OVER-SOUL 49 

pulsation, classes, populations of men. With each divine 
impulse the mind rends the thin rinds of the visible and 
finite; and comes out into eternity, and inspires and ex- 
pires its air. It converses with truths that have always 
been spoken in the world, and becomes conscious of a 
closer sympathy with Zeno and Arrian than with persons 
in the house. 

This is the law of moral and of mental gain. The simple 
rise as by specific levity, not into a particular virtue, but 
into the region of all the virtues. They are in the spirit 
which contains them all. The soul is superior to all the 
particulars of merit. The soul requires purity, but purity • 
is not it; requires justice, but justice is not that; requires 
beneficence, but is somewhat better; so that there is a 
kind of descent and accommodation felt when we leave « 
speaking of moral nature, to urge a virtue which it 
enjoins. For to the soul in her pure action all the virtues # 
are natural, and not painfully acquired. Speak to his 
heart, and the man becomes suddenly virtuous. 

Within the same sentiment is the germ of intellectual 
growth, which obeys the same law. Those who are cap- 
able of humility, of justice, of love, of aspiration, are 
already on a platform that commands the sciences and 
arts, speech and poetry, action and grace. For whoso 
dwells in this moral beatitude does already anticipate 
those special powers which men prize so highly; just as 
love does justice to all the gifts of the object beloved. 
The lover has no talent, no skill, which passes for quite 
nothing with his enamored maiden, however little she 
may possess of related faculty. And the heart, which 
abandons itself to the Supreme Mind, finds itself related 
to all its works, and will travel a royal road to particular 
knowledges and powers. For in ascending to this primary 
and aboriginal sentiment, we have come from our re- 
mote station on the circumference instantaneously to the 
center of the world, where, as in the closet of God, we see 
causes, and anticipate the universe, which is but a slow 
cflfect. 

One mode of the divine teaching is the incarnation of 



60 THE OVER-SOUL 

the spirit in a form, — in forms like my own. I live in 
society; with persons who answer to thoughts in my own 
mind, or outwardly express to me a certain obedience to 
the great instincts to which I hve. I see its presence to 
them. I am certified of a common nature; and so these 
other souls, these separated selves, draw me as nothing 
else can. They stir in me the new emotions we call 
passion; of love, hatred, fear, admiration, pity; thence 
comes conversation, competition, persuasion, cities, and 
war. Persons are supplementary to the primary teach- 
ing of the soul. In youth we are mad for persons. 
Childhood and youth see all the world in them. But the 
larger experience of man discovers the identical nature 
appearing through them all. Persons themselves acquaint 
• US with the mapersonal. In all conversation between two 
persons, tacit reference is made as to a third party, to a 
common nature. That third party or common nature is 
not social; it is impersonal, is God. And so in groux>s 
where debate is earnest, and especially on great questions 
of thought, the company become aware of their unity; 
aware that the thought rises to an equal height in all 
bosoms, that all have a spiritual property in what was 
said, as well as the sayer. They all wax wiser than they 
were. It arches over them like a temple, this unity of 
thought, in which every heart beats with nobler sense of 
power and duty, and thinks and acts with unusual solemn- 
ity. All are conscious of attaining to a higher self-posses- 
sion. It shines for all. There is a certain wisdom of 
humanity which is common to the greatest men with the 
lowest, and which our ordinary education often labors to 
silence and obstruct. The mind is one; and the best minds, 
who love truth for its own sake, think much less of prop- 
erty in truth. Thankfully they accept it everywhere, and 
do not label or stamp it with any man's name, for it is 
theirs long beforehand. It is theirs from eternity. The 
learned and the studious of thought have no monopoly of 
wisdom. Their violence of direction in some degree dis- 
qualifies them to think truly. We owe many valuable 
observations to people who are not very acute or pro- 



THE OVER-SOUL 51 

found, and who say the thing without effort, which we 
want and have long been hunting in vain. The action of 
the soul is oftener in that which is felt and left unsaid, 
than in that which is said in any conversation. It broods 
over every society, and they unconsciously seek for it in 
each other. We know better than we do. We do not yet 
possess ourselves, and we know at the same time that we 
are much more. I feel the same truth how often in my 
trivial conversation with my neighbors, that somewhat 
higher in each of us overlooks this by-play, and Jove 
nods to Jove from behind each of us. 

Men descend to meet. In their habitual and mean 
service to the world, for which they forsake their native 
nobleness, they resemble those Arabian Sheikhs, who dwell 
in mean houses, and affect an eternal poverty, to escape 
the rapacity of the Pasha, and reserve all their display of 
wealth for their interior and guarded retirements. 

As it is present in all persons, so it is in every period 
of Ufe. It is adult already in the infant man. In my 
dealing with my child, my Latin and Greek, my accom- 
plishments and my money, stead me nothing. They are 
all lost on him: but as much soul as I have avails. If I 
am merely wilful, he gives me a Rowland for an Oliver, 
sets his will against mine, one for one, and leaves me, if 
I please, the degradation of beating him by my superiority 
of strength. But if I renounce my will, and act for the 
soul, setting that up as umpire between us two, out of his 
young eyes looks the same soul; he reveres and loves 
with me. 

The soul is the perceiver and revealer of truth. J^e 
know truth when we see it, let sceptic and scoffer say 
what they choose. FooUsh people ask you, when you have 
8ix)ken what they do not wish to hear, "How do you 
know it is truth, and not an error of your own?" We 
know truth when we see it, from opinion, as we know 
when we are awake that we are awake. It was a grand 
sentence of Emanuel Swedenborg, which would alone in- 
dicate the greatness of that man's perception, — "It is 
no proof of a man's understanding to be able to affirm 



•• 



62 THE OVER-SOXJL 

whatever he pleases; but to be able to discern that what 
is true is true, and that what is false is false, this is tbe 
*' mark and character of intelligence." In the book I read, 
the good thought returns to me, as every truth will, the 
image of the whole soul. To the bad thought which I 
find in it, the same soul becomes a discerning, separating 
sword, and lops it away. We are wiser than we know. If 
we will not interfere with our thought, but will act entirely, 
or see how the thing stands in God, we know the par- 
ticular thing, and every thing, and every man. For the 
Maker of all things and all persons stands behind us, 
and casts his dread omniscience through us over things. 

But beyond this recognition of its own in particular 
passages of the individuaPs experience, it also reveals truth. 
And here we should seek to reinforce ourselves by its very 
presence, and to speak with a worthier, loftier strain of that 
advent. For the soul's communication of truth is the 
highest event in nature; for it then does not give some- 
what from itself, but it gives itself, or passes into and be- 
comes that man whom it enlightens; or in proportion to 
that truth he receives, it takes him to itself. 

We distmguish the announcements of the soul, its 
.manifestations of its own nature, by the term ^e v^tatio n. 
These are always attended by the emotion of the sublime. 
• For this communication is an influx of the Divine mind 
into our mind. It is an ebb of the individual rivulet 
before the flowing surges of the sea of life. Every distinct 
apprehension of this central commandment agitates men 
with awe and delight. A thrill passes through all men 
at the reception of new truth, or at the performance of a 
great action, which comes out of the heart of nature. In 
these communications, the power to see is not separated 
from the will to do, but the insight proceeds from obedi- 
ence, and the obedience proceeds from a joyful percep- 
tion. Every moment when the individual feels himself 
invaded by it is memorable. Alwaj^, I believe, by the 
necessity of our constitution, a certain enthusiasm attends 
the individual's consciousness of that divine presence. 
The character and duration of this enthusiasm varies with 



THE OVER-SOUL 63 

the state of the individual, from an ecstasy and trance and 
prophetic inspiration, which is its rarer appearance, to the 
faintest glow of virtuous emotion, in which form it warms, 
like our household fires, all the families and associations 
of men, and makes society possible. A certain tendency 
to insanity has always attended the opening of the religious 
sense in men, as if "blasted with excess of light." The 
trances of Socrates; the "union" of Plotinus; the vision 
of Porphyry; the conversion of Paul; the aurora of 
Behmen; the convulsions of George Fox and his Quakers; 
the illumination of Swedenborg; are of this kind. What 
was in the case of these remarkable persons a ravishment 
has in innumerable instances in common life been ex- 
hibited in less striking manner. Everywhere the history 
of religion betrays a tendency to enthusiasm. The rapture 
of the Moravian and Quietest; the opening of the internal 
sense of the Word, in the language of the New Jerusalem 
Church; the revival of the Calvinistic Churches; the ex- 
periences of the Methodists, — ^are varying forms of that 
shudder of awe and delight with which the individual soul 
always mingles with the universal soul. 

The nature of these revelations is always the same. 
They are perceptions of the absolute law: they are solu- 
tions of the soul's own questions. They do not answer 
the questions which the understanding asks. The soul 
answers never by words, but by the thing itself that is 
inquired after. 

Revelation is the disclosure of the soul. The popular 
notion of a revelation is, that it is a telling of fortunes. 
In past oracles of the soul, the understanding seeks to find 
answers to sensual questions, and undertakes to tell from 
God how long men shall exist, what their hands shall do, 
and who shall be their company, adding even names, 
and dates and places. But we must pick no locks. We 
must check this low curiosity. An answer in words is 
delusive; it is really no answer to the questions you ask. 
Do not ask a description of the coimtries towards which 
you sail. The description does not describe them to you; 
and to-morrow you arrive there, and know them by in- 



54 THE OVER-SOUL 

habiting them. Men ask of the immortality of the soul, 
and the emplojrments of heaven, and the state of the 
sinner, and so forth. They even dream that Jesus has 
left replies to precisely these interrogatories. Never a 
moment did that sublime spirit speak in their patois. To 
truth, justice, love, the attributes of the soul, the idea 
of immutableness is essentially associated. Jesus, living 
in these moral sentiments, heedless of sensual fortunes, 
heeding only the manifestations of these, never made the 
separation of the idea of duration from the essence of 
these attributes; never uttered a syllable concerning the 
duration of the soul. It was left to his disciples to sever 
duration from the moral elements, and to teach the im- 
mortality of the soul as a doctrine, and maintain it by 
evidences. The moment the doctrine of the inmiortality 
is separately taught, man is already fallen. In the flowing 
of love, in the adoration of humility, there is no question 
of continuance. No inspired man ever asks this question, 
or condescends to these evidences. For the soul is true 
to itself; and the man in whom it is shed abroad cannot 
wander from the present, which is infinite, to a future, 
which would be finite. 

These questions which we lust to ask about the future 
are a confession of sin. God has no answer for them. 
No answer in words can reply to a question of things. 
It is not in an arbitrary "decree of God," but in the 
nature of man, that a veil shuts down on the facts of 
to-morrow: for the soul will not have us read any other 
cipher but that of cause and effect. By this veil, which 
curtains events, it instructs the children of men to live in 
to-day. The only mode of obtaining an answer to these 
questions of the senses, is to forego all low curiosity, 
and accepting the tide of being which floats us into the 
secret of nature, work and live, work and live, and all 
unawares the advancing soul has built and forged for 
itself a new condition, and the question and the answer 
are one. 

Thus is the soul the perceiver and revealer of truth, 
^y the same fire, serene, impersonal, perfect, which burns 



THE OVER-SOXJL 65 

until it shall dissolve all things into the waves and surges 
of an ocean of light, — we see and know each other, and 
what spirit each is of. Who can tell the grounds of his 
knowledge of the character of the several individuals in 
his circle of friends? No man. Yet their acts and words 
do not disappoint him. In that man, though he knew no 
ill of him, he put no trust. In that other, though they 
had seldom met, authentic signs had yet passed to signify 
that he might be trusted as one who had an interest in his 
own character. We know each other very well, — which 
of us has been just to himself, and whether that which we 
teach or behold is only an inspiration, or is our honest 
effort also. 

We are all discerners of spirits. That diagnosis lies 
aloft m our life or unconscious power, not in the under- 
standing. The whole intercourse of society, its trade, its 
religion, its friendships, its quarrels, — is one wide judicial 
investigation of character. In full court, or in small com- 
mittee, or confronted face to face, accuser and accused, 
men offer themselves to be judged. Against their will 
they exhibit those decisive trifles by which character is 
read. But who judges? and what? Not our understand- 
ing. We do not read them by learning or craft. No; 
the wisdom of the wise man consists herein, that he does 
not judge them; he lets them judge themselves, and merely 
reads and records their own verdict. 

By \drtue of this inevitable nature, private will is over- 
powered, and, maugre our efforts or our imperfections, 
your genius will speak from you, and mine from me. 
That which we are, we shall teach, not voluntarily, but 
involuntarily. Thoughts come into our minds by avenues 
which we never left open, and thoughts go out of our 
minds through avenues which we never voluntarily 
opened. Character teaches over our head. The infallible 
index of true progress is found in the tone the man takes. 
Neither his age, nor his breeding, nor company, nor 
books, nor actions, nor talents, nor all together, can hinder 
him from being deferential to a higher spirit than his own. 
If he have not found his home in God^ his manners, his 



56 THE OVER-SOUL 

forms of speech, the turn of his sentences, the build, 
shall I say, of all his opinions, will involuntarily confess 
it, let him brave it out how he will. If he have foimd his 
center, the Deity will shine through him, through all the 
disguises of ignorance, of ungenial temx)erament, of un- 
favorable circumstance. The tone of seeking is one, and 
the tone of having is another. 

The great distinction between teachers sacred or literary, 
between poets like Herbert, and poets like Pope; between 
philosophers like Spinoza, Kant, and Coleridge, — and phil- 
osophers like Locke, Paley, Mackintosh, and Stewart; be- 
tween men of the world who are reckoned accomplished 
talkers, and here and there a fervent mystic, prophesying 
half-insane imder the infinitude of his thought, is, that 
one class speak from vnthin, or from experience, as parties 
and possessors of the fact; and the other class, from with-- 
out, as spectators merely, or x)erhaps as acquainted with 
the fact on the evidence of third persons. It is of no use 
to preach to me from without. I can do that too easily 
myself. Jesus speaks always from within, and in a degree 
that transcends all others. In that is the miracle. That 
includes the miracle. My soul believes beforehand that 
it ought so to be. All men stand continually in the 
expectation of the appearance of such a teacher. But if 
a man do not speak from within the veil, where the word 
is one with that it tells of, let him lowly confess it. 
* The same Omniscience flows into the intellect, and makes 
what we call' genius. Much of the wisdom of the world is 
not wisdom, and the most illuminated class of men are 
no doubt superior to literary fame, and are not writers. 
Among the multitude of scholars and authors we feel no 
hallowing presence; we are sensible of a knack and skill 
rather than of inspiration; they have a light, and know 
not whence it comes, and call it their own; their talent 
is some exaggerated faculty, some overgrown member, 
so that their strength is a disease. In these instances 
the intellectual gifts do not make the impression of virtue, 
but almost of vice; ancl we feel that a man's talents stand 
in the way of his advancement in truth. But genius is 



THE OVER-SOUL 67 

reUgious. It is a larger imbibing of the common heart. 
It is not anomalous, but more like, and not less like, 
other men. There is in all great poets a wisdom of hu- 
manity, which is superior to any talents they exercise. 
The author, the wit, the partisan, the fine gentleman, does 
not take place of the man. Humanity shines in Homer, 
in Chaucer, in Spenser, in Shakesi)eare, in Milton. They 
are content with truth. They use the i)ositive degree. 
They seem frigid and phlegmatic to those who have been 
spiced with the frantic passion and violent coloring of 
inferior, but popular writers. For they are poets by the 
free course which they allow to the informing soul, which 
through their eyes beholdeth again, and blesseth the things 
which it hath made. The soul is superior to its knowledge, 
wiser than any of its works. The great poet makes va 
feel our own wealth, and then we think less of his compo- 
sitioi^. His greatest communication to our mind is, to 
teach us to despise all he has done. Shakespeare carries 
us to such a lofty strain of intelligent activity, as to sug- 
gest a wealth which beggars his own; and we then feel 
that the splendid works which he has created, and which 
in other hours we extol as a sort of self-existent poetry, 
take no stronger hold of real nature than the shadow of 
a passing traveler on the rock. The inspiration which 
uttered itself in Hamlet and Lear could utter things as 
good from day to day forever. Why then should I make 
account of Hamlet and Lear, as if we had not the soul 
from which they fell as syllables from the tongue? 

This energy does not descend into individual life on any 
other condition than entire possession. It comes to the 
lowly and simple; it comes to whomsoever will put off 
what is foreign and proud; it comes as insight; it comes 
as serenity and grandeur. When we see those whom it 
inhabits, we are apprised of new degrees of greatness. 
From that inspiration the man comes back with a changed 
tone. He does not talk with men with an eye to their 
opinion. He tries them. It requires of us to be plain and 
true. The vain traveler attempts to embellish his life 
by quoting my Lord, and the Prince, and the Countess, 



58 THE OVER-SOUL 

who thus said or did to him. The ambitious vulgar show 
you their spoons, and brooches, and rings, and preserve 
their cards and compliments. The more cultivated, in 
their account of their own experience, cull out the pleasing 
poetic circumstance; the visit to Rome; the man of genius 
they saw; the brilliant friend they know; still further 
on, perhaps, the gorgeous landscape, the moimtain lights, 
the mountain thoughts, they enjoyed yesterday, — and 
so seek to throw a romantic color over their life. But the 
soul that ascendeth to worship the great God is plainand 
true; has no rose-color; no fine friends; no chiYalry;..nD 
adventures; does not want admiration; dwells in the hour 
that now is, in the earnest experience of the CQmmQn..day., 
— by reason of the present moment and the mere trifle 
having become porous to thought, and bibulous of the 
sea of light. 

Converse with a mind that is grandly simple, and 
literature looks like word-catching. The simplest utter- 
ances are worthiest to be written, yet are they so cheap, 
and so things of course, that in the infinite riches of the 
soul, it is like gathering a few pebbles off the ground, or 
bottling a little air in a phial, when the whole earth and 
the whole atmosphere are ours. The mere author, in 
such society, is like a pickpocket among gentlemen, who 
has come in to steal a gold button or a pin. Nothing 
can pass there, or make you one of the circle, but the 
casting aside your trappings, and dealing man to man in 
naked truth, plain confession and omniscient affirmation. 

Souls such as these treat you as gods would; walk as 
gods in the earth, accepting without any admiration your 
wit, your bounty, your virtue even, say rather your act of 
duty, — for your virtue they own as their proi)er blood, 
royal as themselves, and over-royal, and the father of the 
gods. But what rebuke their plain fraternal bearing casts 
on the mutual flattery with which authors solace each 
other, and wound themselves! These flatter not. I do not 
wonder that these men go to see Cromwell, and Christina, 
and Charles II., and James I., and the Grand Turk. For 
they are in their own elevation the fellows of kings, and 



THE OVER-SOXJL 59 

must feel the servile tone of conversation in the world. 
They must always be a godsend to princes, for they con- 
front them, a king to a king, without ducking or con- 
cession, and give a high nature the refreshment and satis- 
faction of resistance, of plain hmnanity, of even compan- 
ionship, and of new ideas. They leave them wiser and 
superior men. Souls like these make us feel that sincerity 
is more excellent than flattery. Deal so plainly with man 
and woman, as to constrain the utmost sincerity, and destroy 
all hope of trifling with you. It is the highest comphment 
you can pay. Their "highest praising," said Milton, "is 
not flattery; and their plainest advice is a kind of 
praising." 

Ineffable is the union of man and God in every act 
of the soul. The simplest person, who in his integrity 
worships God, becomes God; yet forever and ever the 
influx of this better and universal self is new and un- 
searchable; ever it aspires awe and astonishment. How 
dear, how soothing to man, arises the idea of God peopling 
the lonely place, effacing the scars of our mistakes and 
disappointments! When we have broken our god of tra- 
dition, and ceased from our god of rhetoric, then may God 
fire the heart with his presence. It is the doubling of the 
heart itself, nay, the infinite enlargement of the heart with 
a power of growth to a new infinity on every side. It 
inspires in man an infallible trust. He has not the con- 
viction, but the sight that the best is the true, and may in 
that thought easily dismiss all particular uncertainties and 
fears, and adjourn to the sure revelation of time the solu- 
tion of his private riddles. He is sure that his welfare is 
dear to the heart of being. In the presence of law to his 
mind, he is overflowed with a reliance so universal, that 
it sweeps away all cherished hopes and the most stable 
projects of mortal condition in its flood. He believes that 
he cannot escape from his good. The things that are really 
for thee gravitate to thee. You are running to seek your 
friend. Let your feet run, but your mind need not. If 
you do not find him, will you not acquiesce that it is 
best you should not find him? for there is a power, which, 



60 THE OVER-SOUL 

as it is in you, is in bim also, and could therefore very 
well bring you together, if it were for the best. You are 
preparing with eagerness to go and render a service to 
which your talent and your taste invite you, the love of 
men, and the hope of fame. Has it not occurred to you, 
that you have no right to go, unless you are equally 
willing to be prevented from going? believe, as thou 
hvest, that every sound that is spoken over the round world, 
which thou oughtest to hear, will vibrate on thine ear. 
Every proverb, every book, every by-word that belongs 
to thee for aid or comfort, shall surely come home through 
open or winding passages. Every friend whom not thy 
fantastic will, but the great and tender heart in thee 
craveth, shall lock thee in his embrace. And this, be- 
cause the heart in thee is the heart of all; not a valve, not 
a wall, not an intersection is there anywhere in nature, but 
one blood rolls uninterruptedly, an endless circulation, 
through all men, as the water of the globe is all one sea, 
and, truly seen, its tide is one. 

Let man, then, learn the revelation of all nature, and 
all thought to his heart; this, namely, that the Highest 
dwells with him; that the sources of nature are in his 
own mind, if the sentiment of duty is there. But if he 
would know what the great God speaketh, he must "go 
into his closet and shut the door," as Jesus said. God 
will not make himself manifest to cowards. He must 
greatly listen to himself, withdrawing himself from all the 
accents of other men's devotion. Their prayers even are 
hurtful to him, until he have made his own. The soul 
makes no appeal from itself. Our religion vulgarly 
stands on numbers of believers. Whenever the appeal is 
made, — no matter how indirectly, — ^to numbers, procla- 
mation is then and there made, that religion is not. He 
that finds God a sweet, enveloping thought to him, never 
counts his company. When I sit in that presence, who 
shall dare to come in? When I rest in perfect hmnility, 
when I bum with pure love, what can Calvin or Sweden- 
borg say? 

It makes no difference whether the appeal is to numbers 



THE OVER-SOUL 61 

or to one. The faith that stands on authority is not 
faith. The reliance on authority measures the decUne of 
religion, the withdrawal of the soul. The position men 
have given to Jesus now for many centuries of history is 
a position of authority. It characterizes themselves. It 
cannot alter the eternal facts. Great is the soul, and 
plain. It is no flatterer, it is no follower; it never appeals 
from itself. It always believes in itself. Before the 
immense possibilities of man, all mere experience, all past 
biography, however spotless and sainted, shrinks away. 
Before that holy heaven which our presentiments 
foreshew us, we cannot easily praise any form of life we" 
have seen or read of. We not only aflfirm that we have 
few great men, but, absolutely speaking, that we have 
none; that we have no history, no record of any character 
or mode of living that entirely contents us. The saints 
and demigods whom history worships, we are constrained 
to accept with a grain of allowance. Though in our 
lonely hours we draw a new strength out of their memory, 
yet pressed on our attention, as they are by the thought- 
less and customary, they fatigue and invade. The soul 
gives itself alone, original, and pure to the Lonely, 
Original, and Pure, who, on that condition, gladly in- 
habits, leads, and speaks through it. Then is it glad, 
young, and nimble. It is not wise, but it sees through all 
things. It is not called religious, but it is innocent. It 
calls the light its own, and feels that the grass grows and 
the stone falls by a law inferior to and dependent on its 
nature. Behold, it saith, I am bom into the great, the 
universal mind. I the imperfect adore my own Perfect. 
I am somehow receptive of the great soul, and thereby I 
do overlook the sun and the stars, and feel them to be 
but the fair accidents and effects which change and pass. 
More and more the surges of everlasting nature enter 
into me, and I become public and hiunan in my regards 
and actions. So come I to live in thoughts, and act with 
ener^es which are immortal. Thus revering the soul, and 
learning, as the ancient said, that "its beauty is immense," 
man will come to see that the world is the perennial miracle 



62 THE OVER-SOUL 

which the soul worketh, and be less astonished at particular 
wonders; he will learn that there is no profane history; 
that all history is sacred; that the universe is represented 
in an atom, in a moment of. time. He will weave no 
longer a spotted life of shreds and patches, but he will 
live with a divine unity. He will cease from what is base 
and frivolous in his hfe, and be content with all 
places and any service he can render. He will calmly front 
the morrow in the neghgency of that trust which carries 
God with it, and so hath already the whole future in the 
bottom of the heart. 



m 

HISTORY 

There is no great and no small 
To the Soul that maketh all: 
And where it cometh, all things are; 
And it Cometh every where. 

I am owner of the sphere, 

Of the seven stars and the solar year, 

Of Cffisar's hand, and Plato's brain, 

Of Lord Christ's heart, and Shakeefpeare's strain. 

There is one mind common to all individual men. Every 
man is an inlet to the same and to all of the same. He 
that is once admitted to the right of reason is made a 
freeman of the whole estate. What Plato has thought, he 
may think; what a saint has felt, he may feel; what 
at any time has befallen any man, he can imderstand. 
Who hath access to this universal mind, is a party to all 
that is or can be done, for this is the onJy and sovereign 
agent. 

Of the works of this mind history is the record. Its 
genius is illustrated by the entire series of days. Man is 
explicable by nothing less than all his history. Without 
hurry, without rest, the human spirit goes forth from the 
beginning to embody every faculty, every thought, every 
emotion, which belongs to it, in appropriate events. But 
always the thought is prior to the fact; all the facts of 
history pre-exist in the mind as laws. Each law in turn 
is made by circumstances predominant, and the limits of 
nature give power to but one at a time. A man is the 
whole encyclopaedia of facts. The creation of a thousand 
forests is in one acorn; and Egypt, Greece, Rome, Gaul, 
Britain, America, lie folded already in the first man. 
Epoch after epoch, camp, kingdom, empire, republic, de- 
mocracy, are merely the application of his manifold spirit 

0? 



64 HISTORY 

to the manifold world. 

This human mind wrote history, and this must read it. 
The Sphinx must solve her own riddle. If the whole of 
history is in one man, it is all to be explained from indi- 
vidual experience. There is a relation between the hours 
of our Ufe and the centuries of time. As the air I breathe 
is drawn from the great repositories of nature, as the hght 
on my book is yielded by a star a hundred miUions of 
miles distant, as the poise of my body depends on the 
equihbrium of centrifugal and centripetal forces, so the 
hours should be instructed by the ages, and the ages 
explained by the hours. Of the universal mind each in- 
dividual man is one more incarnation. All its properties 
consist in him. Every step in his private experience 
flashes a light on what great bodies of men have done, 
and the crises of his life refer to national crises. Every 
revolution was first a thought in one man's mind; and 
when the same thought occurs to another man, it is the 
key to that era. Every reform was once a private opin- 
ion; and when it shall be a private opinion again, it 
will solve the problem of the age. The fact narrated 
must correspond to something in me to be credible or 
intelligible. We as we read must become Greeks, Romans, 
Turks, priest and king, martyr and executioner, must 
fasten these images to some reality in our secret ex- 
perience, or we shall see nothing, learn nothing, keep 
nothing. What befel Asdrubal or Caesar Borgia is as 
much an illustration of the mind^s powers and deprava- 
tions as what has befallen us. Each new law and political 
movement has meaning for you. Stand before each of 
its tablets and say, "Here is one of my coverings. Under 
this fantastic, or odious, or graceful mask did my Proteus 
nature hide itself." This remedies the defect of our too 
great nearness to ourselves. This throws our own actions 
into perspective: and as crabs, goats, scorpions, the 
balance and the waterpot, lose all their meanness when 
hung as signs in the zodiac, so I can see my own vices 
without heat in the distant persons of Solomon, Alcibiades, 
and Catiline. 



HISTORY 65 

It is this universal nature which gives worth to par- 
ticular men and things. Human Ufe as containing this 
is mysterious and inviolable, and we hedge it round with 
petialties and laws. All laws derive hence their ultimate 
reason, all express at last reverence for some command 
of this supreme illimitable essence. Property also holds 
of the soul, covers great spiritual facts^ and instinctively 
we at first hold to it with swords and laws, and wide and 
complex combinations. The obscure consciousness of this 
fact is the light of all our day, the claim of claims; the 
plea for education, for justice, for charity, the foundation 
of friendship and love, and of the heroism and grandeur 
which belongs to acts of self-reliance. It is remarkable 
that involuntarily we always read as superior beings. 
Universal history, the poets, the romancers, do not in 
their stateliest pictiures, — in the sacerdotal, the imperial 
palaces, in the triumphs of will, or of genius, any where 
lose our ear, any where make us feel that we intrude, 
that this is for our betters; but rather is it true, that in 
their grandest strokes, there we feel most at home. All 
that Shakespeare says of the king, yonder slip of a boy 
that reads in the comer feels to be true of himself. We 
sympathize in the great moments of history, in the great 
discoveries, the great resistances, the great prosperities, of 
men; — ^because there law was enacted, the sea was searched, 
the land was found, or the blow was struck for us, as we 
ourselves in that place would have done or applauded. 

So is it in respect to condition and character. We 
honor the rich, because they have externally the freedom, 
power, and grace which we feel to be proper to man, 
proper to us. So all that is said of the wise man by 
stoic, or oriental or modem essayist, describes to each man 
his own idea, describes his unattained but attainable self. 
All literature writes the character of the wise man. All 
books, monuments, pictures, conversation, are portraits 
in which the wise man finds the lineaments he is form- 
ing. The silent and the loud praise him, and accost him, 
and he is stimulated wherever he moves as by personal 
fdlusions. A wise and good soul, therefore, never needs 



66 fflSTORY 

look for allusions personal and laudatory in discourse. 
He hears the commendation, not of himself, but more 
sweet, of that character he seeks, in every word that 
is said concerning character, yea, further, in every fact 
that befalls, — ^in the running river and the rustling com. 
Praise is looked, homage tendered, love flows from mute 
nature, from the mountains and the hghts of the Armament. 

These hints, dropped as it were from sleep and night, 
let us use in broad day. The student is to read history 
actively and not passively; to esteem his own life the 
text, and books the conmientary. Thus compelled, the 
muse of history will utter oracles, as never to those who 
do not respect themselves. I have no expectation that 
any man will read history aright, who thinks that what 
was done in a remote age, by men whose names have 
resounded far, has any deeper sense than what he is 
doing to-day. 

The world exists for the education of each man. There 
is no age or state of society, or mode of action in history, 
to which there is not somewhat corresponding in his life. 
Every thing tends in a most wonderful manner to abbre- 
viate itself and yield its own virtue to him. He should 
see that he can live all history in his own person. He 
must sit at home with might and main, and not suffer 
himself to be bullied by kings or empires, but know that 
he is greater than all the geography and all the govern- 
ment of the world; he must transfer the point of view 
from which history is copamonly read, from Rome and 
Athens and London to himself, and not deny his con- 
viction that he is the Court, and if England or Egypt 
have any thing to say to him, he will try the case; if not, 
let them forever be silent. He must attain and maintain 
that lofty sight where facts yield their secret sense, and 
poetry and annals are alike. The instinct of the mind, 
the purpose of nature betrays itself in the use we make 
of the signal narrations of history. Time dissipates to 
shining ether the solid angularity of facts. No anchor, 
no cable, no fences avail to keep a fact a fact. Babylon 
and Troy and Tyre, and even early Rome, are passing 



HISTORY 67 

already into fiction. The Garden of Eden, the Sun stand- 
ing still in Gibeon, is poetry thenceforward to all nations. 
Who cares what the fact was, when we have thus made 
a constellation of it to hang in heaven an immortal sign? 
London and Paris and New York must go the same way. 
"What is history," said Napoleon, "but a fable agreed 
upon?" This hfe of ours is stuck round with Egypt, 
Greece, Gaul, England, War, Colonization, Church, Court, 
and Commerce, as with so many flowers and wild orna- 
ments grave and gay. I will not make more accoimt of 
them. 1 beheve in Eternity. I can find Greece, Palestine, 
Italy, Spain, and the Islands, — the genius and creative 
principle of each and of all eras in my own mind. 

We are always coming up with the facts that have 
moved us in history in our private experience, and veri- 
fying them here. All history becomes subjective; in other 
words, there is properly no History; only Biography. 
Every soul must know the whole lesson for itself — must 
go over the whole ground. What it does not see, what 
it does not live, it will not know. What the former age 
has epitomized into a formula or rule for manipular con- 
venience, it will lose all the good of verifying for itself, 
by means of the wall of that rule. Somewhere or other, 
some time or other, it will demand and find compensa- 
tion for that loss by doing the work itself. Ferguson 
discovered many things in astronomy which had long been 
known. The better for him. 

History must be this, or it is nothing. Every law 
which the state enacts indicates a fact in human nature; 
that is all. We must in our own nature see the necessary 
reason of every fact, — see how it could and must be. 
So stand before every pubUc, every private work; before 
an oration of Burke, before a victory of Napoleon, before 
a martyrdom of Sir Thomas More, of Sidney, of Manna- 
duke Robinson, before a French Reign of Terror, and a 
Salem hanging of witches, before a fanatic Revival, and 
the Animal Magnetism in Paris, or in Providence. We as- 
sume that we under like influence should be alike affected, 
and should achieve the like; and we aim to maste 



68 HISTORY 

intellectually the steps, and reach the same height or the 
same degradation that our fellow, our proxy has done. 

All inquiry into antiquity, — all curiosity respecting the 
pyramids, the excavated cities, Stonehenge, the Ohio 
Circles, Mexico, Memphis, is the desire to do away this 
wild, savagie and preposterous There or Then, and intro- 
duce in its place the Here and the Now. It is to banish 
the Not me, and supply the Me, It is to abolish difference, 
and restore imity. Belzoni digs and measures in the 
mummy-pits and pyramids of Thebes, imtil he can see 
the end of the difference between the monstrous work 
and himself. When he has satisfied himself, in general 
and in detail, that it was made by such a person as him- 
self, so armed and so motived, and to ends to which he 
himself in given drciunstances should also have worked, 
the problem is then solved; his thought hves along the 
whole line of temples and sphinxes and catacombs, passes 
through them all like a creative soul, with satisfaction, 
and they live again to the mind, or are now, 

A Gothic cathedral affirms that it was done by us, and 
not done by us. Surely it was by man, but we find 
it not in our man. But we apply ourselves to the history 
of its production. We put ourselves into the place and 
historical state of the builder. We remember the forest- 
dwellers, the first temples, the adherence to the first 
type, and the decoration of it as the wealth of the nation in- 
creased; the value which is given to wood by carving led 
to the carving over the whole mountain of stone of a 
cathedral. When we have gone through this process, and 
added thereto the Catholic Church, its cross, its music, its 
processions, its Saints' days and image-worship, we have, 
as it were, been the man that made the minster; we 
have seen how it could and must be. We have the suffi- 
cient reason. 

The difference between men is in their principle of 
association. Some men classify objects by color and 
size and other accidents of appearance; others by in- 
trinsic likeness, or by the relation of cause and effect. The 
progress of the intellect con^i^tQ in the clearer vision of 



fflSTORY e/d 

causes, which over-looks surface-differences. To the poet, 
to the philosopher, to the saint, all things are friendly and 
sacred, all events profitable, all days holy, all men divine. 
For the eye is fastened on the Ufe, and shghts the circum- 
stance. Every chemical substance, every plant, every an- 
imal in its growth, teaches the unity of cause, the variety of 
appearance. 

Why, being as we are surrounded by this all-creating 
nature, soft and fluid as a cloud or the air, should we be 
such hard pedants, and magnify a few forms? Why 
should we make account of time, or of magnitude, or of 
form? The soul knows them not, and genius, obeying 
its law, knows how to play with them as a young child 
plays with greybeards and in churches. Genius studies 
the casual thought, and far back in the womb of things 
sees the rays parting from one orb, that diverge ere they 
fall by infinite diameters. Genius watches the monad 
throu^ all his masks as he performs the metempsychosis 
of nature. Genius detects through the fly, through the 
caterpillar, through the grub, through the egg, the constant 
type of the individual; through countless individuals the 
fixed species; through many species the genus; through 
all genera the steadfast type; through all the kingdoms 
of organized life the eternal unity. Nature is a mutable 
cloud, which is always and never the same. She casts 
the same thought into troops of forms, as a poet makes 
twenty fables with one moral. Beautifully shines a spirit 
through the bruteness and toughness of matter. Aione 
onmipotent, it converts all things to its own end. The 
adamant streams into softest but precise form before it, 
but, whilst I look at it, its outline and texture are changed 
altogether. Nothing is so fleeting as form. Yet never 
does it quite deny itself. In man we still trace the rudi- 
ments or hints of all that we esteem badges of servitude 
in the lower races, yet in him they enhance his nobleness 
and grace; as lo, in iEschylus, transformed to a cow, 
offends the imagination, but how changed when as Isis 
in Egypt she meets Jove, a beautiful woman, with nothing 
of the metamorphosis left but the lunar horns as the 



70 fflSTORY 

splendid ornament of her brows! 

The identity ot history is equally intrinsic, the diversity 
equally obvious. There is at the surface infinite variety 
of things; at the center there is simphcity and unity of 
cause. How many are the acts of one man in which we 
recognize the same character! See the variety of the 
sources of our information in respect to the Greek 
genius. Thus at first we have the civU history of that 
people, as Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Plutarch 
have given it — a very sufficient account of what manner 
of persons they were, and what they did. Then we have 
the same soul expressed for us again in their literature; 
in posms, drama, and philosophy: a very complete form. 
Then we have it once more in their architecture, — the 
purest sensuous beauty, — the perfect medium never 
overstepping the limit of charming propriety and grace. 
Then we have it once more in sculpture, — "the tongue on 
the balance of expression," those forms in every action, 
at every age of life, ranging through all the scale of con- 
dition, from god to beast, and never transgressing the 
ideal serenity, but in convulsive exertion the liege of order 
and of law. Thus, of the genius of one remarkable people, 
we have a fourfold representation, — the most various 
expression of one moral thing: and to the senses what 
more unlilce than an ode of Pindar, a marble Centaur, 
the Peristyle of the Parthenon, and the last actions of 
Phocion? Yet do these .varied external expressions pro- 
ceed from one national mind. 

Every one must have observed faces and forms which, 
without any resembling feature, make a like impression 
on the beholder. A particular picture or copy of verses, 
if it do not awaken the same train of images, will yet 
superinduce the same sentiment as some wild mountain 
walk, although the resemblance is nowise obvious to the 
senses, but is occult and out of the reach of the under- 
standing. Nature is an endless combination and repetition 
of a very few laws. She hums the old well-known air 
through innumerable variations. 

Nature is full of a sublime family-likeness throughout 



HISTORY 71 

her works. She delights in startling us with resemblances 
in the most unexpected quarters. I have seen the head 
of an old sachem of the forest, which at once reminded 
the eye of a bald mountain summit, and the furrows of 
the brow suggested the strata of the rock. There are 
men whose manners have the same essential splendor 
as the simple and awful sculpture on the friezes of the 
Parthenon, and the remains of the earliest Greek art. 
And there are compositions of the same strain to be found 
in the books of all ages. What is Guido's Eospighosi 
Aurora but a morning thought, as the horses in it are 
only a morning cloud. If any one will but take pains to 
observe the variety of actions to which he is equally in- 
clined in certain modes of mind, and those to which he is 
averse, he will see how deep is the chain of affinity. 

A painter told me that nobody could draw a tree with- 
out in some sort becoming a tree; or draw a child by 
studying the outUnes of its form merely, — but, by watch- 
ing for a time his motions and plays, the painter enters 
his nature, and can then draw him at will in every atti- 
tude. So Roos "entered into the inmost nature of a 
sheep." I knew a draughtsman employed in a public 
survey, who found that he could not sketch the rocks 
until their geological structure was first explained to him. 

What is to be inferred from these facts but this; that 
in a certain state of thought is the conmion origin of 
very diverse works? It is the spirit and not the fact that 
is identical. By descending far down into the depths of 
the soul, and not primarily by a painful acquisition of 
many manual skills, the artist attains the power of awaken- 
ing other souls to a given activity. 

It has been said that "conmion souls pay with what 
they do; nobler souls with that which they are." And 
why? Because a soul, living from a great depth of being, 
awakens in us by its actions and words, by its very looks 
and manners, the same power and beauty that a gallery 
of sculpture, or of pictures, are wont to animate. 

Civil history, natural history, the history of art, and 
the history of literature, — all must be explained from 



72 fflSTORY 

individual history, or must remain words. There is 
nothing but is related to us, nothing that does not interest 
us — kingdom, college, tree, horse, or iron shoe, the roots 
of all things are in man. It is in the soul that archi- 
tecture exists. Santa Croce and the Dome of St. Peter's 
are lame copies after a divine model. Strasburg Cathe- 
dral is a material coimterpart of the soul of Erwin of 
Steinbach. The true poem is the poet's mind; the true 
ship is the ship-builder. In the man, could we lay him 
open, we should see the suficient reason for the last flourish 
and tendril of his work, as every spine and tint in the 
sea-shell pre-exist in the secreting organs of the fish. The 
whole of heraldry and of chivalry is in courtesy. A man 
of fine manners shall pronoimce your name with all the 
ornament that titles of nobility could ever add. 

The trivial experience of every day is always verifying 
some old prediction to us, and converting into things for 
us also the words and signs which we had heard and seen 
without heed. Let me add a few examples, such as fall 
within the scope of every man's observation, of trivial 
facts which go to illustrate great and conspicuous facts. 

A lady, with whom I was riding in the forest, said to 
me, that the woods alwa3rs seemed to her to wait, as if 
the genii who inhabit them suspended their deeds until 
the wayfarer has passed onward. This is precisely the 
thought which poetry has celebrated in the dance of the 
fairies, which breaks off on the approach of human feet. 
The man who has seen the rising moon break out of the 
clouds at midnight, has been present like an archangel 
at the creation of light and of the world. I remember 
that being abroad one summer day, my companion 
pointed out to me a broad cloud, which might extend a 
quarter of a mile parallel to the horizon, quite accurately 
in the form of a cherub as painted over churches, — a 
round block in the centre, which it was easy to animate 
with eyes and mouth, supported on either side by wide- 
stretched synmietrical wings. What appears once in the 
atmosphere may appear often, and it was undoubtedly 
the archetype of that familiar ornament. I have seen 



HISTORY 73 

in the sky a chain of summer lightning which at once 
revealed to me that the Greeks drew from nature when 
they painted the thunderbolt in the hand of Jove. I 
have seen a snow-drift along the sides of the stone wall 
which obviously gave the idea of the common architectural 
scroll to abut a tower. 

By simply throwing ourselves into new circumstances we 
do continually invent anew the orders and the ornaments 
of architecture, as we see how each people merely decor- 
ated its primitive abodes. The Doric temple still presents 
the semblance of the wooden cabin in which the Dorian 
dwelt. The Chinese pagoda is plainly a Tartar tent. 
The Indian and Egyptian temples still betray the mounds 
and subterranean houses of their forefathers. "The 
custom of making houses and tombs in the living rock/' 
(says Heeren, in his Researches on the Ethiopians), 
"determined very naturally the principal character of the 
Nubian Egyptian architecture to the colossal form which 
it assiuned. In these caverns already prepared by nature, 
the eye was accustomed to dwell on huge shapes and 
masses, so that when art came to the assistance of nature, 
it could not move on a small scale without degrading 
itself. What would statues of the usual size, or neat 
porches and wings have been, associated with those gigantic 
halls before which only Colossi could sit as watchmen, or 
lean on the pillars of the interior?" 

The Gothic church plainly originated in a rude adapta- 
tion of the forest trees with all their boughs to a festal 
or solemn arcade, as the bands about the cleft pillars still in- 
dicate the green withes that tied them. No one can walk 
in a road cut through pine woods, without being struck 
with the architectural appearance of the grove, especially 
in winter, when the bareness of all other trees shows the 
low arch of the Saxons. In the woods in a winter after- 
noon one will see as readily the origin of the stained 
glass window with which the Gothic cathedrals are adorned, 
in the colors of the western sky seen through the bare 
and crossing branches of the forest. Nor can any lover 
of nature enter the old piles of Oxford and the English 



74 fflSTORY 

cathedrals without feeling that the forest overpowered 
the mind of the builder, and that his chisel, his saw, and 
plane still reproduced its ferns, its spikes of flowers, its 
locust, its pine, its oak, its fir, its spruce. 

The Gothic cathedral is a blossoming in stone subdued 
by the insatiable demand of harmony in man. The moun- 
tain of granite blooms into an eternal flower with the 
lightness and deUcate finish as well as the aerial proportions 
and perspective of vegetable beauty. 

In hke manner all public facts are to be individualized, 
all private facts are to be generalized. Then at once 
History becomes fluid and true, and Biography deep and 
sublime. As the Persian imitated in the slender shafts 
and capitals of his architecture the stem and flower of 
the lotus and palm, so the Persian court in its magnificent 
era never gave over the Nomadism of its barbarous tribes, 
but traveled from Ecbatana, where the spring was spent, 
to Susa in summer, and to Babylon for the winter. 

In the early history of Asia and Africa, Nomadism and 
Agriculture are the two antagonistic facts. The geography 
of Asia and of Africa necessitated a nomadic life. But 
the nomads were the terror of all those whom the soil or 
the advantages of a market had induced to build towns. 
Agriculture therefore was a religious injunction because 
of the perils of the state from nomadism. And in these 
late and civil countries of England and America, the 
contest of these propensities still fights out the old battle 
in each individual. We are all rovers and all fixtures by 
turns, and pretty rapid turns. The nomads of Africa are 
constrained to wander by the attacks of the gad-fly, which 
drives the cattle mad, and so compels the tribe to emigrate 
in the rainy season and drive off the cattle to the higher 
sandy regions. The nomads of Asia follow the pasturage 
from month to month. In America and Europe the 
nomadism is of trade and curiosity. A progress certainly 
from the gad-fly of Astaboras to the Angelo and Italomania 
of Boston Bay. The difference between men in this 
respect is the faculty of rapid domestication, the power 
to find his chair and bed everywhere, which one man has, 



HISTORY 75 

and another has not. Some men have so much of the 
Indian left, have constitutionally such habits of accom- 
modation, that at sea, or in the forest, or in the snow, 
they sleep as wann, and dine with as good appetite, and 
associate as happily, as in their own house. And to push 
this old fact still one degree nearer, we may find it a 
representative of a permanent fact in human nature. The 
intellectual nomadism is the faculty of objectiveness, or 
of eyes which everywhere feed themselves. Who hath 
such eyes, everywhere falls into easy relations with his 
fellow-men. Every man, every thing is a prize, a study, 
a property to him, and this love smooths his brow, joins 
him to men, and makes him beautiful and beloved in 
their sight. His house is a wagon; he roams through all 
latitudes as easily as a Calmuc. 

Every thing the individual sees without him, corresponds 
to his states of mind, and every thing is in turn intelhgible 
to him, as his onward thinking leads him into the truth to 
which that fact or series belongs. 

The primeval world, the Fore-World, as the Germans 
say, — I can dive to it in myself as well as grope for it 
with researching fingers in catacombs, libraries, and the 
broken reliefs and torsos of ruined villas. 

What is the foundation of that interest all men feel in 
Greek history, letters, art, and poetry, in all its periods, 
from the heroic or Homeric age, down to the domestic 
life of the Athenians and Spartans, four or five centuries 
later? This period draws us because we are Greeks. It 
is a state through which every man in some sort passes. 
The Grecian state is the era of the bodily nature, the 
perfection of the senses, — of the spiritual nature unfolded 
in strict unity with the body. In it existed those human 
forms which supplied the sculptor with his models of 
Hercules, Phoebus, and Jove; not like the forms abound- 
ing in the streets of modern cities, wherein the face is a 
confused blur of features, but composed of incorrupt, 
sharply defined and symmetrical features, whose eye- 
sockets are so formed that it would be impossible for 
such eyes to squint, and take furtive glances on this side 



76 fflSTORY 

and on that, but they must turn the whole head. 

The manners of that period are plain and fierce. The 
reverence exhibited is for personal qualities, courage, 
address, self-command, justice, strength, swiftness, a loud 
voice, a broad chest. Luxury is not known, nor elegance. 
A sparse population and want make every man his own 
valet, cook, butcher, and soldier; and the habit of 
supplying his own needs educates the body to wonderful 
performances. Such are the Agamenmon and Diomed of 
Homer, and not far different is the picture Xenophon 
gives of himself and his compatriots in the Retreat of the 
Ten Thousand. "After the army had crossed the river 
Teleboas in Armenia,- there fell much snow, and the 
troops lay miserably on the ground, covered with it. But 
Xenophon arose naked, and taking an axe, began to split 
wood; whereupon others arose and did the like." Through- 
out his army seemed to be a boundless liberty of speech. 
They quarrel for plimder, they wrangle with the generals 
on each new order, and Xenophon is as sharp-tongued as 
any, and sharper-tongued than most, and so gives as good 
as he gets. Who does not see that this is a gang of 
great boys, with such a code of honor and such lax disci- 
pline as great boys have? 

The costly charm of the ancient tragedy, and indeed 
of all the old literature, is, that the persons speak simply 
— speak as persons who have great good sense without 
kno\\dng it, before yet the reflective habit has become the 
predominant habit of the mind. Our admiration of the 
antique is not admiration of the old, but of the natural. 
The Greeks are not reflective but perfect in their senses, 
perfect in their health, with the finest physical organiza- 
tion in the world. Adults acted with the simplicity and 
grace of boys. They made vases, tragedies, and statues 
such as healthy senses should — that is, in good taste. 
Such things have continued to be made in all ages, and 
are now, wherever a healthy physique exists; but, as a 
class, from their superior organization, they have surpassed 
all. They combine the energy of manhood with the en- 
gaging imconsciousness of childhood. Our reverence for 



fflSTORY 77 

them is our reverence for childhood. Nobody can reflect 
upon an unconscious act with regret or contempt. Bard 
or hero cannot look down on the word or gesture of a 
child. It is as great as they. The attraction of these 
manners is, that they belong to man, and are known to 
every man in virtue of his being once a child; beside that 
always there are individuals who retain these character- 
istics. A person of childlike genius and inborn energy is 
still a Greek, and revives our love of the muse of Hellas. 
A great boy, a great girl, with good sense, is a Greek. 
Beautiful is the love of nature in the Philoctetes. But 
in reading those fine apostrophes to sleep, to the stars, 
rocks, mountains, and waves, I feel time passing away as 
an ebbing sea. I feel the eternity of man, the identity of 
his thought. The Greek had, it seems, the same fellow 
beings as I. The sun and moon, water and Are, met his 
heart precisely as they meet mine. Then the vaimted 
distinction between Greek and English, between Classic 
and Romantic schools, seems superficial and pedantic. 
When a thought of Plato becomes a thought to me, — 
when a truth that fired the soul of Pindar fires mine, time 
is no more. When I feel that we two meet in a percep- 
tion, that our two souls are tinged with the same hue, and 
do, as it were, nm into one, why should I measure degrees 
of latitude, why should I coimt Egyptian years? 

The student interprets the age of chivalry by his own 
age of chivalry, and the days of maritime adventure and 
circimmavigation by quite parallel miniature experiences 
of his own. To the sacred history of the world he has 
the same key. When the voice of a prophet out of the 
deeps of antiquity merely echoes to him a sentiment of 
his own infancy, a prayer of his own youth, he then pierces 
to the truth through all the confusion of tradition and 
the caricature of institutions. 

Rare, extravagant spirits come by us at intervals, who 
disclose to us new facts in nature. I see that men of 
God have always, from time to time, walked among men, 
and made their commission felt in the heart and soul of 
the conunonest hearer. Hence, evidently, the tripod, the 



78 HISTORY 

priest, the priestess inspired by the divine afflatus. 

Jesus astonishes and overpowers sensual people. They 
cannot unite him to history, or reconcile him with them- 
selves. As they come to revere their intuitions and aspire 
to live holily, their own piety explains every fact, every 
word. 

How easily these old worships of Moses, of Zoroaster, 
of Menu, of Socrates, domesticate themselves in the 
mind! I cannot find any antiquity in them. They are 
mine as much as theirs. 

Then I have seen the first monks and anchorets without 
crossing seas or centuries. More than once some individ- 
ual has appeared to me with such neghgence of labor and 
such conmianding contemplation, a haughty beneficiary, 
begging in the name of God, as made good to the nine- 
teenth century Simeon the Styhte, the Thebais, and the 
first Capuchins. 

The priestcraft of the East and West, of the Magian, 
Brahmin, Druid and Inca, is expounded in the individual's 
private life. The cramping influence of a hard formalist 
on a young child in repressing his spirits and courage, 
paralyzmg the understanding, and that without producing 
indignation, but only fear and obedience, and even much 
sympathy with the tyranny, — is a familiar fact explained 
to the child when he becomes a man, only by seeing that 
the oppressor of his youth is himself a child tyrannized 
over by those names and words and forms, of whose influ- 
ence he was merely the organ to the youth. The fact 
teaches him how Belus was worshipped, and how the 
pyramids were built, better than the discovery by Cham- 
poUion of the names of all the workmen and the cost of 
every tile. He finds Assyria and the Moimds of Cholula 
at his door, and himself has laid the courses. 

Again, in that protest which each considerate person 
makes against the superstition of his times, he reacts step 
for step the part of old reformers, and in the search after 
truth finds hke them new perils to virtue. He learns 
again what moral vigor is needed to supply the girdle 
of a superstition, A great licentiousness treads on the 



HISTORY 79 

heels of a reformation. How many times in the history 
of the world has the Luther of the day had to lament 
the decay of piety in his own household! "Doctor," said 
his wife to Martin Luther one day, "how is it that whilst 
subject to papacy we prayed so often and with such fer- 
vour, whilst now we pray with the utmost coldness and 
very seldom?" 

The advancing man discovers how deep a property he 
hath in all hterature, — in all fable as well as in all history. 
He finds that the poet was no odd fellow who described 
strange and impossible situations, but that imiversal man 
wrote by his pen a confession true for one and true for 
all. His own secret biography he finds in lines wonder- 
fully intelligible to him, yet dotted down before he was 
bom. One after another he comes up in his private ad- 
ventures with every fable of ^Esop, of Homer, of Hafiz, 
of Ariosto, of Chaucer, of Scott, and verifies them with 
his own head and hands. 

The beautiful fables of the Greeks, being proper crea- 
tions of the Imagination and not of the Fancy, are uni- 
versal verities. What a range of meanings and what per- 
petual pertinence has the story of Prometheus! Beside 
its primary value as the first chapter of the history of 
Europe (the mythology thinly veiling authentic facts, the 
invention of the mechanic arts, and the migration of 
colonies), it gives the history of religion with some close- 
ness to the faith of later ages. Prometheus is the Jesus 
of the old mythology. He is the friend of man; stands 
between the unjust "justice" of the Eternal Father, and 
the race of mortals; and readily suffers all things on their 
account. But where it departs from the Calvinistic 
Christianity, and exhibits him as the defier of Jove, it 
represents a state of mind which readily appears wherever 
the doctrine of Theism is taught in a crude, objective 
form, and which seems the self-defence of man against 
this untruth, namely, a discontent with the believed fact 
that a God exists, and a feeling that the obligation of 
reverence is onerous. It would steal, if it could, the fire 
of the Creator, and live apart from him, and independent 



80 fflSTORY 

of him. The Prometheus Vinctus is the romance of 
scepticism. Not less true to all time are all the details 
of that stately apologue. Apollo kept the flocks of Admetus, 
said the i)oets. Every man is a divinity in disguise, a 
god playing the fool. It seems as if heaven had sent its 
insane angels into our world as to an asylum, and here 
they will break out into their native music and utter at 
intervals the words they have heard in heaven; then the 
mad fit returns, and they mope and wallow like dogs. 
When the gods come among them, they are not known. 
Jesus was not; Socrates and Shakespeare were not. 
Antaeus was suffocated by the gripe of Hercules, but every 
time he touched his mother earth, his strength was re^ 
newed. Man is the broken giant, and in all his weakness, 
both his body and his mind are invigorated by habits of 
conversation with nature. The power of music, the power 
of poetry to unfix, and, as it were, clap wings to all solid 
nature, interprets the riddle of Orpheus, which was to his 
childhood an idle tale. The philosophical perception of 
identity through endless mutations of form makes him 
know the Proteus. What else am I who laughed or wept 
yesterday, who slept last night like a corpse, and this 
morning stood and ran? And what see I on any side 
but the transmigrations of Proteus? I can symbolize my 
thought by using the name of any creature, of any fact, 
because every creature is man agent or patient. Tantalus 
is but a name for you and me. Tantalus means the im- 
possibility of drinking the waters of thought which are 
always gleaming and waving within sight of the soul. The 
transmigration of souls: that too is no fable. I would 
it were; but men and women are only half human. Every 
animal of the barn-yard, the field and the forest, of the 
earth and of the waters that are imder the earth, has 
contrived to get a footing, and to leave the print of its 
features and form in some one or other of these upright, 
heaven-facing speakers. Ah, brother, hold fast to 
the man and awe the beast; stop the ebb of thy soul — 
ebbing downward into the forms into whose habits thou 
hast now for many years sUd. As near and proper to us 



HISTORY 81 

is also that old fable of the Sphinx, who was said to sit 
in the roadside and put riddles to every passenger. If 
the man could not answer, she swallowed him alive. If 
he could solve the riddle, the Sphinx was slain. What 
is our life but an endless flight of winged facts or events? 
In splendid variety these changes come, all putting ques- 
tions to the human spirit. Those men who cannot answer 
by a superior wisdom these facts or questions of time, 
serve them. Facts encumber them, tyrannize over them, 
and make the men of routine the men of sense, in whom 
a hteral obedience to facts has extinguished every spark 
of that light by which man is truly man. But if the man 
is true to his better instincts or sentiments, and refuses the 
dominion of facts, as one that comes of a higher race, 
remains fast by the soul and sees the principle, then the 
facts fall aptly and supple into their places; they know 
their master, and the meanest of them gjorifies him. 

See in Goethe's Helena the same desire that every word 
should be a thing. These figures, he would say, these 
Chirons, Griffins, Phorkyas, Helen, and Leda, are somewhat, 
and do exert a specific influence on the mind. So far then 
are they eternal entities, as real to-day as in the first Olym- 
piad. Much revolving them, he writes out freely his 
humor, and gives them body to his own imagination. And 
although that pdem be as vague and fantastic as a dream, 
yet it is much more attractive than the more regular dram- 
atic pieces of the same author, for the reason that it oper- 
ates a wonderful relief to the mind from the routine of 
customary images, — awakens the reader's invention and 
fancy by the wild freedom of the design, and by the im- 
ceasing succession of brisk shocks of surprise. 

The imiversal nature, too strong for the petty nature 
of the bard, sits on his neck and writes through his hand; 
80 that when he seems to vent a mere caprice and wild ro- 
mance, the issue is an exact allegory. Hence Plato said 
that '*poets utter great and wise things which they do not 
themselves understand." All the fictions of the Middle 
Age explain themselves as a masked or frohc expresion of 
that which, in grave earnest^ the mind of that period 



82 HISTORY 

toiled to achieve. Magic, and all that is ascribed to it, is 
manifestly a deep presentiment of the powers of science. 
The shoes of swiftness, the sword of sharpness, the power 
of subduing the elements, of using the secret virtues of 
minerals, of understanding the voices of birds, are the 
obscure efforts of the mind in a right direction. The pre- 
ternatural prowess of the hero, the gift of perpetual youth, 
and the like, are alike the endeavor of the human spirit ''to 
bend the shows of things to the desires of the mind." 

In Perceforest and Amadis de Gaul, a garland and a rose 
bloom on the head of her who is faithful, and fade on the 
brow of the inconstant. In the story of the Boy and the 
Mantle, even a mature reader may be surprised with a 
glow of virtuous pleasure at the triumph of the gentle 
Genelas; and, indeed, all the postulates of elfin annals, 
that the Fairies do not like to be named; that their gifts 
are capricious and not to be trusted; that who seeks a treas- 
ure must not speak; and the like, I find true in Concord, 
however they might be in CJomwall or Bretagne. 

Is it otherwise in the newest romance? I read the 
Bride of Lammermoor. Sir William Ashton is a mask for 
a vulgar temptation, Ravenswood Castle, a fine name for 
proud poverty, and the foreign mission of state only a 
Bunyan disguise for honest industry. We may all shoot 
a wild bull that would toss the good and beautiful, 
by fighting down the unjust and sensual. Lucy Ashton is 
another name for fidelity, which is always beautiful and 
always liable to calamity in this world. 

But along with the civil and metaphysical history of man, 
another history goes daily forward — that of the external 
world, — ^in which he is not less strictly implicated. He is the 
compend of time: he is also the correlative of nature. 
The power of man consists in the multitude of his affinities, 
in the fact that his life is intertwined with the whole chain 
of organic and inorganic being. In the age of the Caesars, 
out from the Forum at Rome proceeded the great high- 
ways north, south, east, west, to the center of every pro- 
vince of the empire, making each market-town of Persia, 
Spain, and Britain, pervious to the soldiers of the capital: 



HISTORY 83 

so out of the human heart go, as it were, byways to the 
heart of every object in nature, to reduce it imder the do- 
minion of man. A man is a bundle of relations, a knot of 
roots, whose flower and fruitage is the world. All his 
faculties refer to natures out of him. All his faculties pre- 
dict the world he is to inhabit, as the fina of the fish foreshow 
that water exists, or the wings of an eagle in the egg pre- 
suppose a medium like air. Insulate, and you destoy him.' 
He cannot hve without a world. Put Napoleon in an island- 
piison, let his faculties find no men to act on, no Alps to 
climb, no stake to play for, and he would beat the air and 
appear stupid. Transport him to large countries, dense 
population, complex interests, and antagonist power, uid 
you shall see that the man Napoleon, bounded, that is, by 
sudi a profile and outline, is not the virtual Napoleon. Thia 
is but Talbot's shadow; 

"His substance is not here: 
For what you see is but the smallest part. 
And leaat proportion ol humanity; 
But were the whole frame here, 
It IB of suoh a spacious, lofty pitch. 
Your root were not sufficient to contain it." — Htnry VI. 

Columbus needs a planet to shape his course upon. 
Newton and Laplace need myriads of ages and thickstrown 
celestial areas. One may say a gravitatit^ solar system is 
already prophesied in the nature of Newton's mind. Not 
less does the brain of Davy and Gay-Lussac from childhood, 
exploring always the affinities and repulaons of particles, 
anticipate the laws of organization. Does not the eye of 
the human embryo predict the Ught? the ear of ^indel 
predict the witchcraft of harmonic sound? Do not 
the constructive fingers of Watt, Fulton, Wljittemore, 
Arkwright predict the fusible, hard, and temperable texture 
of metals, the properties of stone, water, and wood ? the lovely 
attributes of the maiden child predict the refinements 
and decoratioM of civil society? Here also we are re- 
minded of the action of man on man. A mind might ponder 
its thought for ages, and not gain so much self-knowledge 
as the passion of love shall teach it in a day. Wiio knows 



84 HISTORY 

himself before he has been thrilled with inctignation at 
an outrage, or has heard an eloquent tongue, or has shared the 
throb of thousands in a national exultation or alarm? No 
man can antedate his experience, or guess what faculty or 
feeling a new object shall unlock, any more than he can 
draw to-day the face of a person whom he shall see to- 
morrow for the first time. 

I will not now go behind the general statement to ex- 
plore the reason of this correspondency. Let it suffice 
that in the hght of thesef two facts, namely, that the mind is 
One, and that nature is its correlative, history is to be read 
and written. 

Thus in all ways does the soul concentrate and reproduce 
its treasures for each pupil, for each new-bom man. He 
too shall pass through the whole cycle of experience. He 
shall collect into a focus the rays of nature. History no 
longer shall be a dull book. It shall walk incarnate in every 
just and wise man. You shall not tell me by languages and 
titles a catalogue of the volumes you have read. You shall 
make me feel what periods you have lived. A man shall 
be the Temple of Fame. He shall walk, as the poets have 
described that goddess, in a robe painted all over with won- 
derful events and experiences; — ^his own form and features 
by their exalted intelligence shall be that variegated vest. 
I shall find in him the Foreworld; in his childhood the 
Age of Gold; the Apples of Knowledge; the Argonautic 
Expedition; the calling of Abraham; the building of the 
Temple; the Advent of Christ; Dark Ages; the Revival of 
Letters; the Reformation; the discovery of new lands, the 
opening of new sciences, and new regions in man. He shall 
be the priest of Pan,, and bring with him into humble cot- 
tages the blessing of the morning stars and all the recorded 
benefits of heaven and earth. 

Is there somewhat overweening in this claim? Then I 
reject all I have written; for what is the use of pretending 
to know what we know not? But it is the fault of our 
rhetoric that we cannot strongly state one fact without 
seeming to belie some other. I hold our actual knowledge 
very cheap. Hear the rats in the wall, see the lizard on the 



fflSTORY 85 

fence, the fungus under foot, the hchen on the log. What 
do I know sympathetically, morally, of either of these 
worlds of Ufe? As long as the Caucasian man — ^perhaps 
longer — these creatures have kept their counsel beside him, 
and there is no record of any word or sign that has passed 
from one to the other. Nay, what does history yet record 
of the metaphysical annals of man? What light does it 
shed on those mysteries which we hide under the names 
Death and Immortality? Yet every history should be 
written in a wisdom which divined the range of our affin- 
ities, and looked at facts as symbols. I am ashamed to see 
what a shallow village-tale our so-called History is. How 
many times we must say Rome, and Paris, and Constanti- 
nople: What does Rome know of rat and lizard? What 
are Olympiads and Consulates to these neighboring systems 
of being? Nay, what food or experience or succor have they 
for the Esquimaux seal-hunter, for the Kanaka in his 
canoe, for the fisherman, the stevedore, the porter? 

Broader and deeper we must write our annals — from an 
ethical reformation, from an influx of the ever-new, ever- 
sanative conscience — if we would trulier express our central 
and wide-related nature, instead of this old chronology of 
selfishness and pride to which we have too long lent our 
eyes. Already that day exists for us, shines in on us at 
unawares; but the path of science and of letters is not the 
way into nature, but from it rather. The idiot, the Indian, 
the child, and the unschooled farmer's boy, come much nearer 
to these, — understand them better than the dissector or the 
antiquary. 



IV 

EXPERIENCaE 

The lords of life, the lords of life," 

I saw them pass 

In their own guise, 

like and unlike, 

Portly and grim, 

Use and Surprise, 

Surface and Dream, 

Succession swift, and spectral Wrong, 

Temperament without a tongue. 

And the inventor of the game 

Omnipresent without name; — 

Some to see, some to be guessed. 

They marched from east to west: 

Little man, least of all. 

Among the legs of his guardians tall, 

Walked about with puzzled look: — 

Him by the hand dear nature took; 

Dearest nature, strong and kind. 

Whispered, ''Darling, never mind! 

To-morrow they will wear another face. 

The founder thou! these are thy race!'* 

Where do we find ourselves? In a series, of which we do 
not know the extremes, and believe that it has none. We 
wake, and find ourselves on a stair: there are stairs below 
us, which we seem to have ascended; there are stairs above 
us, many a one, which go upward and out of sight. But 
the Genius which, according to the old belief, stands at the 
door by which we enter, and gives us the lethe to drink, 
that weVnay tell no tales, mixed the cup too strongly, and 
we cannot shake off the lethargy now at noon-day. Sleep 
lingers all our lifetime about our eyes, as night hovers all 
day in the boughs of the fir-tree. All things swim and glim- 
mer. Our life is not so much threatened as our perception. 
Ghost-like we glide through nature, and should not know 

86 



EXPERIENCE 87 

our place again. Did our birth fall in some fit of indigence 
and frugality in nature, that she was so sparing of her 
fire and so liberal of her earth, that it appears to us that 
we lack the affirmative principle, and though we have 
health and reason, yet we have no superfluity of spirit for 
new creation? We have enough to live and bring the year 
about, but not an ounce to impart or to invest. Ah, that our 
Genius were a little more of a genius! We are hke 
millers on the lower levels of a stream, when the factories 
above them have exhausted the water. We, too, fancy 
that the upper people must have raised their dams. 

If any of us knew what we were doing, or where we are 
going, then when we think we best know! We do not 
know to-day whether we are busy or idle. In times, 
when we thought ourselves indolent, we have afterwards 
discovered, that much was accomplished, and much was 
begun in us. All our days are so improfitable while they 
pass, that 'tis wonderful where or when we ever got any 
thing of this which we call wisdom, poetry, virtue. We 
never got it on any dated calendar day. Some heavenly 
days must have been intercalated somewhere, like those 
that Hermes won with dice of the Moon, that Osiris might 
be bom. It is said, all martyrdoms looked mean when they 
were suffered. Every ship is a romantic object, except 
that we sail in. Embark, and the romance quits our vessel, 
and hangs on every other sail in the horizon. Our life looks 
trivial, and we shun to record it. Men seem to have learned 
of the horizon the art of perpetual retreating and reference. 
"Yonder uplands are rich pasturage, and my neighbor has 
fertile meadow, but my field," says the querulous farmer, 
'only holds the world together." I quote another man say- 
ing; unluckily, that other withdraws himself in the same way, 
and quotes me. Tis a trick of nature thus to degrade 
to-day; a good deal of buzz, and somewhere a result 
slipped magically in. Every roof is agreeable to the eye, 
until it is lifted: then we find tragedy, and moaning 
women, and hard-eyed husbands, and deluges of lethe, 
and the men ask, "What's the news?" as if the old were 
so bad. How many individuals can we count in society? 



88 EXPERIENCE 

how many actions? how many opinions? So much of 
our time is preparation, so much is routine, and so much 
retrospect, that the pith of each man's genius contracts 
itself to a very few hours. The history of hterature — 
take the net result of Tiraboschi, Warton, or Schlegel — 
is a sum of very few ideas, and of very few original tales, — 
all the rest being variations of these. So in this great 
society wide lying around us, a critical analysis would find 
very few spontaneous actions. It is almost all custom and 
gross sense. There are even few opinions, and these seem 
organic in the speakers, and do not disturb the miiversal 
necessity. 

What opium is instilled into all disaster! It shows 
formidable as we approach it, but there is at last no rough 
raspmg friction, but the most slippery, sliding surfaces. 
We fall soft on a thought. Ate Dea is gentle, 

*'Over men's heads walking aloft, 
With tender feet treading so soft." 

People grieve and bemoan themselves, but it is not half 
so bad with them as they say. There are moods in which 
we court suffering, in the hope that here, at least, we 
shall find reahty, sharp peaks and edges of truth. But 
it turns out to be scene-painting, and counterfeit. The only 
thing grief has taught me, is to know how shallow it is. 
That, like all the rest, plays about the surface, and never 
introduces me into the reality, for contact with which, we 
would even pay the costly price of sons and lovers. Was 
it Boscovich who found out that bodies never come in con- 
tact? Well, souls never touch their objects. An in- 
navigable sea washes with silent waves between us and the 
things we aun at and converse with. Grief, too, will make 
us idealists. In the death of my son, now more than two 
years ago, I seem to have lost a beautiful estate, — no more. 
I cannot get it nearer to me. If to-morrow I should be in- 
formed of the bankruptcy of my principal debtors, the loss 
of my property would be a great inconvenience to me, 
perhaps, for many years; but it would leave me as it found 
ne, — neither better nor worse. So it is with this calamity: 



EXPERIENCE 89 

it does not touch me: something which I fancied was a part 
of me, — which could not be torn away without tearing me, 
nor enlarged without enriching me, falls off from me, and 
leaves no scar. It was caducous. I grieve that grief can 
teach me nothing, nor carry me one step into real nature. 
The Indian who was laid under a curse, that the wind should 
not blow on him, nor water flow to him, nor fire bum him, is a 
type of us all. The dearest events are sunmier rain, and 
we the Para coats that shed every drop. Nothing is 
left us now but death. We look to that with a grim satis- 
faction, saying, there at least is reahty that will not dodge 
us. 

I take this evanescence and lubricity of all objects, which 
lets them slip through our fingers then when we clutch hard- 
est, to be the most unhandsome part of our condition. 
Nature does not like to be observed, and likes that we 
should be her fools and playmates. We may have the 
sphere for our cricket-ball, but not a berry for our phil- 
osophy. Direct strokes she never gave us power to make; 
all our blows glance, all our hits are accidents. Our re- 
lations to each other are oblique and casual. 

Dream delivers us to dream, and there is no end to illu- 
sion. Life is a train of moods like a string of beads, and, 
as we pass through them, they prove to be many-colored 
lenses which paint the world their own hue, and each shows 
only what lies in its focus. From the mountain you see 
the mountain. We animate what we can, and we see only 
what we animate. Nature and books belong to the eyes 
that see them. It depends on the mood of the man, whether 
he shall see the sunset or the fine poem. There are always 
sunsets, and there is always genius; but only a few hours so 
serene that we can relish nature or criticsm. The more or 
less depends on structure or temperament. Temperament 
is the iron wire on which the beads are strung. Of what 
use is fortune or talent to a cold and defective nature? 
Who cares what sensibility or discrimination a man has at 
some time shown, if he falls asleep in his chair? or if he 
laugh and giggle? or if he apologize? or is affected with 



90 EXPERIENCE 

egotism? or thinks of his dollar? or cannot go by food? or 
has gotten a child in his boyhod? Of what use is genius, 
if the organ is too convex or too concave, and cannot find a 
focal distance within the actual horizon of human hfe? 
Of what use, if the brain is too cold or too hot, and the man 
does not care enough for results, to stimulate him to ex- 
periment, and hold him up in it? or if the web is too finely 
woven, too irritable by pleasure and pain, so that life stag- 
nates from too much reception, without due outlet? Of 
what use to make heroic vows of amendment, if the same 
old law-breaker is to keep them? What cheer can the 
religious sentiment yield, when that is suspected to be secretly 
dependent on the seasons of the year, and the state of the 
blood? I knew a witty physician who found theology in the 
biliary duct, and used to affirm that if there was disease 
in the liver, the man became a Calvinist, and if that organ 
was sound he became a Unitarian. Very mortifying is the 
reluctant experience that some imfriendly excess or im- 
becility neutralizes the promise of genius. We see young 
men who owe us a new world, so readily and lavishly they 
promise, but they never acquit the debt; they die young 
and dodge the account : or if they live, they lose themselves 
in the crowd. 

Temperament also enters fully into the system of illusions, 
and shuts us in a prison of glass which we cannot see. 
There is an optical illusion about every person we meet. In 
truth, they are all creatures of given temperament, which 
will appear in a given character, whose boundaries they 
will never pass: but we look at them, they seem alive, and 
we presume there is impulse in them. In the moment, it 
seems impulse; in the year, in the lifetime, it turns out to 
be a certain uniform tune which the revolving barrel of the 
music-box must play. Men resist the conclusion in the 
morning, but adopt it as the evening wears on, that temper 
prevails over every thing of time, place, and condition, 
and is inconsumable in the flames of religion. Some mod- 
ifications the moral sentiment avails to impose, but the in- 
dividual texture holds its dominion, if not to bias the 
moral judgments, yet to fix the measure of activity and of 



EXPERIENCE 91 

enjoyment. 

I thus express the law as it is read from the platform 
of ordinary life, but must not leave it without noticing the 
capital exception. For temperament is a power which no 
man willingly hears anyone praise but himself. On the 
platform of physics, we cannot resist the contracting in- 
fluences of so-called science. Temperament puts all div- 
inity to rout. I know the mental proclivity of physicians. 
I hear the chuckle of the phrenologists. Theoretic kid- 
nappers and slave-drivers, they esteem each man the 
victim of another, who winds him round his finger by 
knowing* the law of his being, and by such cheap sign- 
boards as the color of his beard, or the slope of his 
occiput, read the inventory of his fortunes and character. 
The grossest ignorance does not disgust like this impudent 
knowingness. The physicians say, they are not material- 
ists; but they are: — Spirit is matter reduced to an extreme 
thinness: so thin! — ^But the definition of spirittud should 
be, that which is its ovm evidence. What notions do they 
attach to love! what to religion! One would not willingly 
pronounce these words in their hearing, and give them the 
occasion to profane them. I saw a gracious gentleman 
who adapts his conversation to the form of the head of the 
man he talks with! I had fancied that the value of life 
lay in its inscrutable possibilities; in the fact, that I never 
know, in addressing myself to a new individual, what may 
befall me. I carry the keys of my castle in my hand, 
ready to throw them at the feet of my lord, whenever and 
in what disguise soever he shall appear. I know he is in 
the neighborhood, hidden among vagabonds. Shall I pre- 
clude my future, by taking a high seat, and kindly adapt- 
ing my conversation to the shape of heads? When I 
come to that, the doctors shall buy me for a cent. — ^"But, 
sir, medical history; the report to the Institute; the proven 
facts!" — I distrust the facts and the inferences. Temper- 
ament is the veto or limitation-power in the constitution, 
very justly applied to restrain an opposite excess in the 
constitution, but absurdly offered as a bar to original equity, 
When virtue is in presence, all subordinate powers sleep. 



92 EXPERIENCE 

On ita own level, or in the view of nature, temperament is 
final. I see not, if one be once caught in this trap of so- 
called sciences, any escape for the man from the links of 
the chain of physical necessity. Given such an embryo, 
such a history must follow. On this platform, one hves 
in a sty of sensualism, and would soon come to suicide. 
But it is impossible that the creative power should exclude 
itself. Into every inteUigence there is a door which is 
never closed, through which the creator passes. The in- 
tellect, seeker of absolute truth, or the heart, lover of ab-* 
solute good, intervenes for our succor, and at one whisper of 
these high powers, we awake from ineffectual struggles 
with this nightmare. We hurl it into its own hell, and 
cannot again contract ourselves to so base a state. 

The secret of the illusoriness is in the necessity of a suc- 
cession of moods or objects. Gladly we would anchor, 
but the anchorage is quicksand. This onward trick of 
nature is too strong for us: Pero si muove. When, at night, 
I look at the moon and stars, I seem stationary, and they 
to hurry. Our love of the real draws us to permanence, 
but health of body consists in circulation, and sanity of 
mind in variety or facility of association. We need change 
of objects. Dedication to one thought is quickly odious. 
We house with the insane, and must humor them; then con- 
versation dies out. Once I took such delight in Montaigne, 
that I thought I should not need any other book; before 
that, in Shakspeare; then in Plutarch; then in Plotinus; at 
one time in Bacon; afterwards in Goethe; even in Bettine; 
but now I turn the pages of either of them languidly, 
whilst I still cherish their genius. So with pictures; each 
will bear an emphasis of attention once, which it cannot re- 
tain, though we fain would continue to be pleased in that 
manner. How strongly I have felt of pictures, that when 
you have seen one well, you must take your leave of it; 
you shall never see it again. I have had good lessons from 
pictures, which I have since seen without emotion or remark. 
A deduction must be made from the opinion, which even the 
wise express of a new book or occurrence. Their opinion 

ves me tidings of their mood, and some vague guess at 



EXPERIENCE 93 

the new fact, but is nowise to be trusted as the lasting re- 
lation between that intellect and that thing. The child asks, — 
"Mama, why don't I like the story as well as when you told 
it me yesterday?" Alas! child, it is even so with the oldest 
cherubim of knowledge. But will it answer thy question to 
say, — Because thou wert bom to a whole, and this story 
is a particular? The reason of the pain this discovery 
causes us (and we make it late in respect to works of art 
and intellect), is the plaint of tragedy which murmurs from 
it in regard to persons, to friendship and love. 

That immobility and absence of elasticity which we find 
in the arts, we find with more pain in the artist. There is 
no power of expansion in man. Our friends early appear 
to us representatives of certain ideas, which they never 
pass or exceed. They stand on the brink of the ocean of 
thought and power, but they never take the single step 
that would bring them there. A man is like a bit of Lab- 
rador spar, which has no lustre as you turn it in your hand, 
until you come to a particular angle; then it shows deep 
and beautiful colors. There is no adaptation or miiversal 
applicability in men, but each has his special talent, and the 
mastery of successful men consists in adroitly keeping 
themselves where and when that turn shall be oftenest to be 
practised. We do what we must, and call it by the best 
names we can, and would fain have the praise of having 
intended the result which ensues. I cannot recall any 
form of man who is not superfluous sometimes. But is 
not this pitiful? Life is not worth the taking, to do tricks 
in. 

Of course, it needs the whole society, to give the sym- 
metry we seek. The parti-colored wheel must revolve very 
fast to appear white. Something is learned too by con- 
versing with so much folly and defect. In fine, whoever 
loses, we are always of the gaining party. Divinity is 
behind our failures and follies also. The plays of children 
are nonsense, but very educative nonsense. So is it with the 
largest and solemnest things, with commerce, government, 
church, marriage, and so with the history of every man's 
bread, and the ways by which he is to come by it. Like 



• 



^^ 



94 EXPERIENCE 

a bird which alights nowhere, but hops perpetually from 
bough to bough, is the Power which abides in no man and 
in no woman, but for a moment speaks from this one, and 
for another moment from that one. 

But what help from these fineries or pedantries; What 
help from thought? Life is not dialectics. We, I think, in 
these times, have had lessons enough of the futihty of 
criticism. Our young people have thought and written 
much on labor and reform, and for all that they have 
written, neither the world nor themselves have got on a 
step. Intellectual tasting of life will not supersede muscular 
activity. If a man should consider the nicety of the pass- 
age of a piece of bread down his throat, he would starve. 
At Education-Farm, the noblest theory of life sat on the 
noblest figures of young men and maidens, quite power- 
less and melancholy. It would not rake or pitch a ton of 
hay; it would not rub down a horse; and the men and maid- 
ens it left pale and hungry. A political orator wittily 
compared our party promises to western roads, which opened 
stately enough, with planted trees on either side, to tempt 
the traveller, but soon became narrow and narrower, and 
ended in a squirrel-track, and ran up a tree. So does 
culture with us; it ends in head-ache. Unspeakably sad 
and barren does life look to those, who a few months ago 
were dazzled with the splendor of the promise of the times. 
"There is now no longer any right course of action, nor any 
self-devotion left among the Iranis." Objections and 
criticism we have had our fill of. There are objections to 
every course of life and action, and the practical wisdom 
infers an indifferency, from the omnipresence of objection. 
The whole frame of things preaches indifferency. Do not 
craze yourself with thinking, but go about your business 
anywhere. Life is not intellectual or critical, but sturdy. 
Its chief good is for well-mixed people who can enjoy what 
they find without question. Nature hates peeping, and our 
mothers speak her very sense when they say, "Children, 
eat your victuals, and say no more of it." To fill theiour, — 
that is happines; to fill the hour, and leave no crevice for 
a repentance or an approval. We live amid surfaces, and 



EXPERIENCE 96 

the true art of life is to skate well on them. Under the 
oldest, mouldiest conventions, a man of native force prospers 
just as well as in the newest world, and that by skill of 
handling and treatment. He can take hold anywhere. 
Life itself is a mixture of power and form, and will not 
bear the least excess of either. To finish the moment, to 
find the journey's end in every step of the road, to hve 
the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom. It is not 
the part of men, but of fanatics, or of mathematicians, if 
you will, to say, that, the shortness of life considered, it is 
not worth caring whether for so short a duration we were 
sprawling in want, or sitting high. Since our office is 
with moments, let us husband them. Five minutes of to- 
day are worth as much to me as five minutes in the next 
millennium. Let us be poised, and wise, and our own to- 
day. Let us treat the men and women well: treat them as 
if they were real: perhaps they are. Men live in their 
fancy, like drunkards whose hands are too soft and trem- 
ulous for successful labor. It is a tempest of fancies, and 
the only ballast I know, is a respect to the present hour. 
Without any shadow of doubt, amidst this vertigo of shows 
and pontics, I settle myself ever the firmer in the creed, 
that we should not postpone and refer and wish, but do 
broad justice where we are, by whomsoever we deal with, 
accepting our actual companions and circumstances, how- 
ever humble or odious, as the mystic officials to whom the 
universe has delegated its whole pleasure for us. If these 
are mean and malignant, their contentment, which is the 
last victory of justice, is a more satisfying echo to the heart, 
than the voice of poets and the casual sympathy of admir- 
able persons. I think that however a thoughtful man may 
suffer from the defects and absurdities of his company, 
he cannot without affectation deny to any set of men and 
women, a sensibiHty to extraordinary merit. The coarse 
and frivolous have an instinct of superiority, if they have 
not a sympathy and honor it in their blind capricious way 
with sincere homage. 

The fine young people despise Ufe, but in me, and in 
such as with me are free from dyspepsia, and to whom a day 



96 EXPERIENCE 

is a sound and solid good, it is a great excess of politeness to 
look scornful and to cry for company. I am grown by 
sympathy a little eager and sentimental, but leave me alone, 
and I should relish every hour and what it brought me, the 
pot-luck of the day, as heartily as the oldest gossip in the 
bar-room. I am thankful for small mercies. I compared 
notes with one of my friends who expects everything of 
the universe, and is disappointed when anything is less 
than the best, and I found that I begin at the other extreme, 
expecting nothing, and am always full of thanks for moder- 
ate goods. I accept the clangor and jangle of contrary 
tendencies. I find my account in sots and bores also. 
They give a reality to the circumjacent picture, which 
such a vanishing meteorous appearance can ill spare. In 
the morning I awake, and find the old world, wife, babes, 
and mother, Concord and Boston, the dear old spiritual 
world, and even the dear old devil not far off. If we 
will take the good we find, asking no questions, we shall 
have heaping measures. The great gifts are not got by 
analysis. Every thing good is on the highway. The 
middle region of our being is the temperate zone. We may 
climb into the thin and cold realm of pure geometry and 
lifeless science, or sink into that of sensation. Between 
these extremes is the equator of Ufe, of thought, of spirit, 
of poetry — a narrow belt. Morever, in popular expe- 
rience, every thing good is on the highway. A collector 
peeps into all the picture-shops of Europe, for a land- 
scape of Poussin, a crayon-sketch of Salvator; but the 
Transfiguration, the Last Judgment, the Communion of 
St. Jerome, and what are as transcendent as these, are on 
the walls of the Vatican, the Uffizi, or the Louvre, where 
every footman may see them; to say nothing of nature's 
'pictures in every street, of sunsets and simrises every day, 
and the sculpture of the human body never absent. A col- 
lector recently bought at public auction, in London, for 
one hundred and fifty-seven guineas, an autograph of 
Shakspeare: but for nothing a school-boy can read Hamlet, 
and can detect secrets of highest concernment yet unpub- 
lished therein. I think I will never read any but the cozd^ 



EXPERIENCE 97 

monest books, — ^the Bible, Homer, Dante, Shakspeare, and 
Milton. We grow impatient of so public a life and planet, 
and run hither and thither for nooks and secrets. The im- 
agination delights in the wood-craft of Indians, trappers, 
and bee-hunters. We fancy that we are strangers, and 
not so intimately domesticated in the planet as the wild 
man, and the wild beast and bird. But the exclusion 
reaches them also: reaches the climbing, flying, gliding, 
feathered and four-footed man. Fox and woodchuck, hawk 
and snipe, and bittern, when nearly seen, have no more root 
in the deep world than man, and are just such superficial 
tenants of the globe. Then the new molecular philosophy 
shows astronomical inter-spaces betwixt atom and atom, 
shows that the world is all outside: it has no inside. 

The mid-world is best. Nature, as we know, her, is no 
saint. The lights of the church, the ascetics, Gentoos and 
Grahamites, she does not distinguish by any favor. She 
comes eating and drinking and sinning. Her darlings, 
the great, the strong, the beautiful, are not children of 
our law, do not come out of the Sunday School, nor weigh 
their food, nor punctually keep the commandments. If 
we will be strong with her strength, we must not harbor 
such disconsolate consciences, borrowed too from the con- 
sciences of other nations. We must set up the strong 
present tense against all the rumors of wrath, past or to 
come. So many things are unsettled which it is of the first 
importance to settle — and, pending their settlement, we 
will do as we do. Whilst the debate goes forward on the 
equity of commerce, and will not be closed for a century 
or two, New and Old England may keep shop. Law of 
copyright and international copyright is to be discussed, 
and, in the interim, we will sell our books for the most we 
can. Expediency of literature, reason of literature, law- 
fulness of writing down a thought, is questioned; much is 
to say on both sides, and while the fight waxes hot, thou, 
dearest scholar, stick to thy foolish task, add a line every 
hour, and between whiles add a line. Right to hold land, 
{right of property, is disputed, and the conventions con- 
i^ene. and before the vQte is taken, dig away in your garden, 



98 EXPERIENCE 

and spend your earnings as a waif or godsend to all serene 
and beautiful purposes. Life itself is a bubble and a scepti- 
cism, and a sleep within a sleep. . Grant it, and as much 
more as they will, — but thou, God's darling! heed thy 
pri\rate dream: thou wilt not be missed in the scorning and 
scepticism: there are enough of them: stay there in thy 
closet, and toil, until the rest are agreed what to do about 
it. Thy sickness, they say, and thy puny habit, require 
that thou do this or avoid that, but know that thy life is a 
flitting state, a tent for a night, and do thou, sick or well, 
finish that stint. Thou art sick, but shalt not be worse, 
and the universe, which holds thee dear, shall be the better. 
A Human life is made up of the two 'elements, power and 
form, and the proportion must be invariably kept, if we 
would have it sweet and sound. Each of these elements in 
excess makes a mischief as hurtful as its defect. Every- 
thing runs to excess: every good quality is noxious, if un- 
mixed, and, to carry the danger to the edge of ruin, nature 
causes each man's peculiarity to superabound. Here, 
among the farms, we adduce the scholars as examples of 
this treachery. They are the victims of expression. 
You who see the artist, the orator, the poet, too near, and 
find their life no more excellent than that of mechanics 
or farmers, and themselves victims of partiality, very hollow 
and haggard, and pronounce them failures, — ^not heroes, 
but quacks — conclude, very reasonably, that these arts are 
not for man, but are disease. Yet nature will not bear you 
out. Irresistible nature made them such, and makes legions 
more of «uch every day. You love the boy reading in a 
book, gazing at a drawing, or a cast: yet what are these 
millions who read and behold, but incipient writers and 
sculptors? Add a little more of that quality which now 
reads and sees, and they will seize the pen and chisel. And 
if one remembers how innocently he began to be an artist, 
he perceives that nature joined with his enemy. A man 
is a golden impossibility. The line he must walk is a hair's 
breadth. The wise through excess of wisdom is made a fool. 
How easily, if fate would suffer it, we might keep foFever 
these beautiful limits, and adjust ourselves, once for all, 



p » 



EXPERIENCE 99 

to the perfect calculation of the kingdom of known cause 
and effect. In the street and in the newspapers, life appears 
so plain a business, that manly resolution and adherence to 
the multipUcation-table through all weathers, will ensure 
success. But, ah! presently comes a day, or is it only a 
half-hour, with its angel-whispering, — which discomfits the 
conclusions of nations and of years! To-morrow, again, 
every thing looks real and angular, the habitual standards 
are reinstated, conmion-sense is as rare as genius, — is the 
basis of genius, and experience is hands and feet to every 
enterprise; — and yet, he who should do his business on this 
understanding, would be quickly bankrupt. Power keeps 
quite another road than the turnpikes of choice and will, 
namely the subterranean and invisible tunnels and channels 
of life. It is ridiculous that we are diplomatists, and 
doctors, and considerate people: there are no dupes like 
these. Life is a series of surprises, and would not be 
worth taking or keeping, if it were not. God delights to 
isolate us every day, and hide from us the past and the fut- ^ ^- : 
ure. We would look about us, but with grand politeness he - 
draws down before us an impenetrable screen of purest sky, 
and another behind us of purest sky. "You will not re- 
member," he seems to say, "and you will not expect." All 
good conversation, manners, and action, come from a spon- 
taneity which forgets usages, and makes the moment great. 
Nature hates calculators; her methods are saltatory and 
impulsive. Man lives by pulses; our organic movements 
are such; and the chemical and ethereal agents are un- 
dulatory and alternate; and the mind goes antagonizing on, 
and never prospers but by fits. We thrive by casualties. 
Our chief experiences have been casual. The most attract- 
ive class of people are those who are powerful obliquely, 
and not by the direct stroke: men of genius, but not yet 
accredited: one gets the cheer of their light without paying 
too great a tax. Theirs is the beauty of the bird, or the 
morning light, and not of art. In the thought of genius 
there is always a surprise; and the moral sentiment is well 
called "the newness," for it is never other; as new to the 
oldest inteUigence as to the young child, — "the kingdom 



100 EXPERIENCE 

that Cometh without observation/' In like manner, for 
practical success, there must not be too much design. A 
man will not be observed in doing that which he can do 
best. There is a certain magic about his properest action 
which stupefies your powers of observation; so that, though 
it is done before you, you wist not of it. The art of Ufe 
has a pudency, and will not be exposed. Every man is 
an imi)ossibility, until he is bom; every thing impossible, 
until we see a success. The ardors of piety agree at last 
with the coldest scepticism, — that nothing is of us or our 
works, — that all is of God. Nature will not spare us the 
smallest leaf of laurel. All writing comes by the grace of 
God, and all doing and having. I would gladly be moral, 
and keep due metes and bounds, which I dearly love, 
and allow the most to the will of man, but I have set my 
heart on honesty in this chapter, and I can see nothing at 
last, in success or failure, than more or less of vital force 
^ supplied from the Eternal. The results of life are un- 
: calculated and uncalculable. The years teach much which 
the days never know. The persons who compose our 
company, converse, and come and go, and design and execute 
many things, and somewhat comes of it all, but an un- 
looked-for result. The individual is always mistaken. 
He designed many things, and drew in other i)ersons as co- 
adjutors, quarrelled with some or all, blundered much, and 
something is done; all are a little advanced, but the indi- 
vidual is always mistaken. It turns out somewhat new, 
and very unlike what he promised himself. 

The ancients, struck with this irreducibleness of the ele- 
ments of human life to calculation, exalted Chance into 
a divinity, but that is to stay too long at the spark, — 
which glitters truly at one point,— but the universe is 
warm with the latency of the same fire. The miracle of 
life which will not be expounded, but will remain a miracl^ 
introduces a new element. In the growth of the embryo, 
Sir Everard Home, I think, noticed that the evolution was 
not from one central point, but co-active from three or 
more points. Life has no memory. That which proceeds 



EXPERIENCE 101 

in succession might be remembered, but that which is co« 
existent, or ejaculated from a deeper cause, as yet far from 
being conscious, knows not its own tendency. So is it with 
us, now sceptical, or without unity, because immersed in 
forms and effects all seeming to be of equal yet hostile value; 
and now religious, whilst in the reception of spiritual law. 
Bear with these distractions, with this coetaneous growth of 
the parts: they will one day be members, and obey one 
will. On that one will, on that secret cause, they nail 
our attention and hope. Life is hereby melted into an ex- 
pectation or a religion. Underneath the inharmonious and 
trivial particulars, is a musical profession, the Ideal journey* 
ing always with us, — the heaven without rent or seam. Do 
but observe the mode of our illumination. When I con- 
verse with a profound mind, or if at any time, being alone, 
I have good thoughts, I do not at once arrive at satisfaction, 
as when, being thirsty, I drink water, or go to the fire, being 
cold: no! but I am at first apprised of my vicinity to a 
new and exceUent region of hfe. By persisting to read or 
to think, this region gives further sign of itself, as it were in 
flashes of Ught, in sudden discoveries of its profound beauty 
and repose, as if the clouds that covered it parted at int- 
ervals, and showed the approaching traveller the inland 
mountains, with the tranquil, eternal meadows spread at 
their base, whereon flocks graze, and shepherds pipe arid 
dance. But every insight from this realm of thought is 
felt as initial, and promises a sequel. I do not make it; 
I arrive there, and behold what was there already. I 
make! no! I clap my hands in infantine joy and amaze- 
ment, before the first opening to me of this august magni- 
ficence, old with the love and homage of innumerable ages, 
young with the life of life, the sunbright Mecca of the 
desert. And what a future it opens! I feel a new heart 
beating with the love of the new beauty. I am ready to 
die out of nature, and be born again into this new, yet 
unapproachable America I have found in the West. 

Since neither now nor yesterday began 

These thoughts, which have been ever, nor yet can 

A man be found who their first entrance knew. 



102 EXPERIENCE 

If I have described life as a flux of moods, I must now add, 
that there is that in us which changes not, and which ranks 
all sensations and states of mind. The consciousness in 
each man is a sliding scale, which identifies him now with 
the First Cause, and now with the flesh of his body; hfe 
above hfe, in infinite degrees. The sentiment from which 
it spnmg determines the dignity of any deed, and the question 
ever is, not, what you have done or forborne, but at whose 
conmiand you have done or forborne it. 

Fortune, Minerva, Muse, Holy Ghost, — these are quaint 
names, too narrow to cover this unbounded substance. 
The baffled intellect noiust still kneel before this cause, 
which refuses to be named, — ^ineffable cause, which every 
fine genius has essayed to ^^present by some emphatic 
by (Nous) thought, Zoroaster^y fire, Jesus and the mod- 
erns by love: and the metaphoK^f each has become a 
national religion. The Chinese Menfei^^ has not been the 
least successful in his generalization. ^. fully miderstand 
language," he said, "and nourish well my vast-flowing 
vigor." — ^"I beg to ask, what you call vast-flowing vigor?" 
said his companion. "The explanation," replied Mencius, 
"is difficult. This vigor is supremely great, and in the 
highest degree unbending. Nourish it correctly, and do it 
no injury, and it will fill the vacancy between heaven 
ahd earth. This vigor accords with and assists justice and 
reason and leaves no hunger." In our more correct writing, 
we give to this generahzation the name of Being, and there- 
by confess that we have arrived as far as we can go. 
Suffice it for the joy of the imiverse, that we have not 
arrived at a wall, but at interminable oceans. Our life 
seems not present, so much as prospective; not for the 
affairs on which it is wasted, but as a hint of this vast- 
flowing vigor. Most of hfe seems to be mere advertisement 
of faculty: information is given us not to sell ourselves 
cheap; that we are very great. So, in particulars, our 
greatness is always in a tendency or direction, not in 
an action. It is for us to believe in the rule, not in the 
exception. The noble are thus known from the ignoble. 



EXPERIENCE 103 

So in accepting the leading of the sentiments, it is not what 
we believe concerning the immortality of the soul, or the 
like, but the universal impulse to believe, that is the ma- 
terial circumstance, and is the principal fact in the history 
of the globe. Shall we describe this cause as that which 
works directly? The spirit is not helpless or needful of 
mediate organs. It has plentiful powers and direct effects. 
I am explained without explaining, I am felt without acting, 
and where I am not. Therefore all just persons are satis- 
fied with their own praise. They refuse to explain them- 
selves, and are content that new actions should do them that 
office. They beheve that we conmiunicate without speech, 
and above speech, and that no right action of ours is 
quite imaffecting to our friends at whatever distance; 
for the influence of action is not to be measured by miles. 
Why should I fret myself, because a circumstance has 
occurred, which hinders my presence where I was ex- 
pected? If I am not at the meeting, my presence where I 
am, should be as useful to the conmionwealth of friendship 
and wisdom, as would be my presence in that place. I 
exert the same quality of power in all places. Thus journeys 
the mighty Ideal before us; it never was known to fall into 
the rear. No man ever came to an experience which was 
satiating, but his good is tidings of a better. Onward and 
onward! In liberated moments, we know that a new picture 
of life and duty is already possible; the elements already 
exist in many minds around you, of a doctrine of life which 
shall transcend any written record we have. The new 
statement will comprise the scepticisms, as well as the faiths 
of society, and out of unbeliefs a creed shall be formed. 
For scepticisms are not gratuitous or lawless, but are limit- 
ations of the affirmative statement, and the new philoso- 
phy must take them in, and make affirmations outside of 
them, just as much as it must include the oldest beliefs. 

It is very unhappy, but too late to be helped, the dis- 
covery we have made, that we exist. That discovery is 
called the Fall of Man. Ever afterwards, we suspect our 
instruments. We have learned that we do not see directly, 



104 EXPERIENCE 

but mediately, and that we have no means of correctmg 
these colored and distorted lenses which we are, or of com- 
puting the amount of their errors. Perhaps these subject- 
lenses have a creative power: perhaps there are no objects. 
Once we hved in what we saw; now, the rapaciousness of 
this new power, which threatens to absorb all things, en- 
gages us. Nature, art, persons, letters, religions, objects, 
successively tumble in, and God is but one of its ideas. 
Nature and hterature are subjective phenomena; every 
evil and every good thing is a shadow which we cast. The 
street is full of humiliations to the proud. As the fop con- 
trived to dress his bailiffs in his hvery, and make them wait 
on his guests at table, so the chagrins which the bad heart 
gives off as bubbles, at once take form as ladies and gentle- 
men in the street, shopmen or bar-keepers in hotels, and 
threaten or insult whatever is threatenable or insultable 
in us. Tis the same with our idolatries. People forget 
that it is the eye which makes the horizon, and the rounding 
mind's eye which makes this or that man a type or represen- 
tative of humanity with the name of hero or saint. Jesus, 
the "providential man," is a good man, on whom many 
people are agreed that these optical laws shall take effect. 
By love on one part, and by forbearance to press ob- 
jection on the other part, it is for a time settled, that we 
will look at him in the center of the horizon, and ascribe 
to him the properties that will attach to any man so seen. 
But the longest love or aversion has a speedy term. The 
great and crescive self, rooted in absolute nature, supplants 
all relative existence, and ruins the kingdom of mortal 
friendship and love. Marriage (in what is called the 
spiritual world) is impossible, because of the inequality 
between every subject and every object. The subject is 
the receiver of Godhead, and at every comparison must 
feel his being enhanced by that cryptic might. Though 
not in energy, yet by presence, this magazine of substance 
cannot be otherwise than felt: nor can any force of in- 
tellect attribute to the object the proper deity which sleeps 
or wakes for ever in every subject. Never can love make 
onsciousness and ascription equal in force. There will 



EXPERIENCE 105 

be the same gulf between every me and thee, as between 
the original and the picture. The imiverse is the bride of 
the soul. All private sympathy is partial. Two himian 
beings are like globes, which can touch only in a point, and, 
whilst they remain in contact, all other points of each of 
the spheres are inert; their turn must also come, and the 
longer a particular union lasts, the more energy of appe- 
tency the parts not in union acquire. 

Life will be imaged, but cannot be divided nor doubled. 
Any invasion of its imity would be chaos. The soul is 
not twin-bom, but the only begotten, and though revealing 
itself as child in time, child in appearance, is of a fatal and 
universal power, admitting no co-life. Every day, every 
act betrays the ill-concealed deity. We beheve in ourselves 
as we do not beheve in others. We permit all things to our- 
selves, and that which we call sin in others, is experiment 
for us. It is an instance of our faith in ourselves, that 
men never speak of crime as lightly as they think: or, 
every man thinks a latitude safe for himself, which is 
nowise to be indulged to another. The act looks very 
differently on the inside, and on the outside; in its quality 
and in its consequences, murder in the murderer is 
no such ruinous thought as poets and romancers will have it; 
it does not imsettle him, or fright him from his ordinary 
notice of trifles: it is an act quite easy to be contemplated, 
but in its sequel, it turns out to be a horrible jangle and 
confounding of all relations. Especially the crimes that 
spring from love, seem right and fair from the actor's 
point of view, but, when acted, are foimd destructive of 
society. No man at last believes that he can be lost, nor 
that the crime in him is as black as in the felon; because the 
intellect quahfies in our own case the moral judgments. 
For there is no crime to the intellect. That is antinomian 
or hypernomian, and judges law as well as fact. "It is 
worse than crime, it is a blunder," said Napoleon, speaking 
the language of the intellect. To it, the world is a problem 
in mathematics or the science of quantity, and it leaves out 
praise and blame, and all weak emotions. All stealing 
is comparative. If you come to absolutes, pray who does 



106 EXPERIENCE 

not steal? Saints are sad, because they behold sm (even 
when they speculate) from the point of view of the con- 
science, and not of the inteUect; a confusion of thought. 
Sin seen from the thought, is a diminution or less : seen from 
the conscience or will, it is pravity or bad. The intellect 
names it shade, absence of light, and no essence. The con- 
science must feel it as essence, essential evil. This it is 
not: it has an objective existence, but no subjective. 

Thus inevitably does the universe wear our color, and 
every object fall successively into the subject itself. The 
subject exists, the subject enlarges; all things sooner or 
later fall into place. As I am, so I see; use what language 
we will, we can never say anything but what we are; 
Hermes, Cadmus, Columbus, Newton, Bonaparte, are 
the mind's ministers. Instead of feeling a poverty when 
we encounter a great man, let us treat the new comer like 
a travelling geologist, who passes through our estate, and 
shows us good slate, or limestone, or anthracite, in our 
brush pasture. The partial action of each strong mind in 
one direction, is a telescope for the objects on which it is 
pointed. But every other part of knowledge is to be pushed 
to the same extravagance, ere the soul attains her due 
sphericity. Do you see that kitten chasing so prettily her 
own tail? If you could look with her eyes, you might see 
her surrounded with hundreds of figures performing com- 
plex dramas, with tragic and comic issues, long conver- 
sations, many characters, many ups and downs of fate, — 
and meantime it is only puss and her tail. How long 
before our masquerade will end its noise of tambourines, 
laughter, and shouting, and we shall find it was a solitary 
performance? — ^A subject and an object, it takes so much to 
make the galvanic circuit complete, but magnitude adds 
nothing. What imports it whether it is Kepler and the 
sphere; Columbus and America; a reader and his book; 
or puss with her tail? 

It is true that all the muses, and love, and religion hate 
these developments, and will find a way to punish the 
chemist, who publishes in the parlor the secrets of the 
laboratory. And we cannot say too little of our consti- 



EXPERIENCE 107 

tutional necessity of seeing things under private aspects, 
or saturated with our humors. And yet is the God the 
native of these bleak rocks. That need makes in morals 
the capital virtue of self-trust. We must hold hard to this 
poverty, however scandalous, and by more vigorous self- 
recoveries, after the sallies of action, possess our axis more 
firmly. The life of truth is cold, and so far mournful; 
but it is not the slave of tears, contritions, and pertur- 
bations. It does not attempt another's work, nor adopt 
another's facts. It is a main lesson of wisdom to know 
your own from another's. I have learned that I cannot 
dispose of other people's facts; but I possess such a key 
to my own, as persuades me against all their denials, that 
they also have a key to theirs. A sympathetic person is 
placed in the dilemma of a swimmer among drowning men, 
who all catch at him, and if he gives so much as a leg or a 
finger, they will drown him. They wish to be saved from 
the mischief of their vices, but not from their vices. 
Charity would be wasted on this poor waitmg on the symp- 
toms. A wise and hardy physician will say. Come out of 
that, as the first condition of advice. 

In this our talking America, we are ruined by our good 
nature and listening on all sides. This compliance takes 
away the power of being greatly useful. A man should not 
be able to look other than directly and forthright. A 
preoccupied attention is the only answer to the importunate 
frivolity of other people : an attention, and to an aim which 
makes their wants frivolous. This is a divine answer, and 
leaves no appeal, and no hard thoughts. In Flaxman's 
drawing of the Eumenides of iEschylus, Orestes supplicates 
Apollo, whilst the Furies sleep on the threshold. The face 
of the god expresses a shade of regret and compassion, 
but calm with the conviction of the irreconcilableness of 
the two spheres. He is bom into other politics, into the 
internal and beautiful. The man at his feet asks for his 
interests in turmoils of the earth, into which his nature 
cannot enter. And the Eumenides there lying express 
pictorially this disparity. The god is surcharged with his 
divine destiny. 



108 EXPERIENCE 

Illusion, Temperament, Succession, Surface, Surprise, 
Reality, Subjectiveness, — these are threads on the loom 
of time, these are the lords of life. I dare not assume to 
give their order, but I name them as I find them in my 
way. I know better than to claim any completeness for 
my picture. I am a fragment, and this is a fragment of me. 
I can very confidently announce one or another law, which 
throws itself into relief and form, but I am too young yet 
by some ages to compile a code. I gossip for my hour con- 
cerning the eternal pohtics. I have seen many fair pictures 
not in vain. A wonderful time I have Uved in. I am not 
the novice I was fourteen, nor yet seven years ago. Let 
who will ask, where is the fruit? I find a private fruit 
sufficient. This is a fruit, — that I should not ask for a rash 
eflfect from meditations, counsels, and the hiving of truths. 
I should feel it pitiful to demand a result on this town and 
county, an overt effect on the instant month and year. The 
effect is deep and secular as the cause. It works on periods 
in which mortal lifetime is lost. All I know is reception; 
I am and I have : but I do not get, and when I have fancied 
I had gotten anything, I found I did not. I worship with 
wonder the great Fortune. My reception has been so 
large, that I am not annoyed by receiving this or that super- 
abundantly. I say to the Genius, if he will pardon the 
proverb, In for a milly in for a million. When I receive 
a new gift, I do not macerate my body to make the account 
square, for, if I should die, I could not make the account 
square. The benefit overran the merit the first day, and 
has overran the merit ever since. The merit itself, so- 
called, I reckon part of the receiving. 

Also, that hankering after an overt or practical effect, 
seems to me an apostasy. In good earnest, I am willing 
to spare this most unnecessary deal of doing. Life wears 
to me a visionary face Hardest, roughest action is vision- 
ary also. It is but a choice between soft and turbulent 
dreams. People disparge knowing and the intellectual 
Hfe, and urge doing. I am very content with knowing, if 
only I could know. That is an august entertainment, and 
would suffice me a great while. To know a httle, would be 



EXPERIENCE 109 

worth the expense of this world. 1 hear always the law of 
Adrastia, "that every soul which had acquired any truth, 
should be safe from harm until another period." 

I know that the world I converse with in the city and in 
the farms, is not the world I think, I observe that differ- 
ence, and shall observe it. One day, I shall know the 
value and the law of this discrepance. But I have not 
found that much was gained by manipular attempts to 
realize the world of thought. Many eager persons success- 
ively make an experiment in this way, and make themselves 
ridiculous. They acquire democratic manners, they foam 
at the mouth, they hate and deny. Worse, I observe, that, 
in the history of mankind, there is never a solitary example 
of success, — taking their own tests of success. I say this 
poTemically, or in reply to the inquiry, why not realize 
your world? But far be from me the despair which pre- 
judges the law by a paltry empiricism, — since there never 
^^s a right endeavor, but it succeeded. Patience and patience, 
we shall win at the last. We must be very suspicious of 
the deceptions of the element of time. It takes a good 
deal of time to eat or to sleep, or to earn a hundred dollars; 
and- a very little time to entertain a hope and an insight 
which becomes the light of our life. We dress our garden, 
eat our dinners, discuss the household with our wives, — 
and these things make no impression — are forgotten next 
week; but in the solitude to which every man is always 
returning, he has a sanity and revelations, which, in his 
passage into new worlds, he will carry with him. Never 
mind the ridicule, never mind the defeat: up again, old 
heart! — it seems to say,-^there is victory yet for all 
justice; and the true romance which the world exists to 
realize, will be the transformation of genius into practical 
power. 



USES OF GREAT MEN 

It is natural to believe in great men. If the companions 
of our childhood should turn out to be heroes, and their 
condition regal, it would not surprise us. All mjrthology 
opens with demigods, and the circumstance is high and 
poetic; that is, their genius is paramount. In the legends 
of the Gautama, the first men ate the earth, and found it 
dehciously sweet. 

Nature seems to exist for the excellent. The world is 
upheld by the veracity of good men: they make the earth 
wholesome. They who lived with them found life glad 
and nutritious. Life is sweet and tolerable only in our 
belief in such society; and actually, or ideally, we manage 
to live with superiors. We call our children and our lands 
by their names. Their names are wrought into the verbs 
of language, their works and offices are in our houses, and 
every circumstance of the day recalls an anecdote of them. 

The search after the great is the dream of youth, and the 
most serious occupation of manhood. We travel into for- 
eign parts to find his works, — if possible, to get a glimpse of 
him. But we are put off with fortune instead. You say, 
the English are practical; the Germans are hospitable; in 
Valencia, the climate is delicious; and in the hills of Sacra- 
mento, there is gold for the gathering. Yes, but I do 
not travel to find comfortable, rich, and hospitable people, 
or clear sky, or ingots that cost too much. But if there 
were any magnet that would point to the countries and 
houses where are the persons who are intrinsically rich 
and powerful, I would sell all, and buy it, and put myself 
on the road to-day. 

The race goes with us on their credit. The knowledge: 

110 



USES OF GREAT MEN 111 

that in the city is a man who invented the railroad, raises 
the credit of all the citizens. But enormous populations, 
if they be beggars, are disgusting, like moving cheese, like 
bills of ants, or of fleas — the more, the worse. 

Our religion is the love and cherishing of these patrons. 
The gods of fable are the shining moments of great men. 
We run all our vessels into one mould. Our colossal theolo- 
gies of Judaism, Christism, Buddhism, Mahometism, are 
the necessary and structural action of the hiunan mind. 
The student of history is like a man going into a warehouse 
to buy cloths or carpets. He fancies he has a new article. 
If he go to the factory, he shall find that his new stuff still 
repeats the scrolls and rosettes which are found on the 
interior walls of the pyramids of Thebes. Our theism is 
the purification of the human mind. Man can paint, or 
make, or think nothing but man. He believes that the great 
material elements had their origin from his thought. And 
our philosophy finds one essence collected or distributed. 

If now we proceed to inquire into the kinds of service we 
derive from others, let us be warned of the danger of modem 
studies, and begin low enough. We must not contend 
against love, or deny the substantial existence of other people. 
I know not what would happen to us. We have social 
strengths. Our affection towards others creates a sort 
of vantage or purchase which nothing will supply. I can 
do that by another which I cannot do alone. I can say to 
you what I cannot first say to myself. Other men are 
lenses through which we read our own minds. Each man 
seeks those of different quality from his own, and such as 
are good of their kind; that is, he seeks other men, and the 
otherest. The stronger the nature, the more it is reactive. 
Let us have the quality pure. A little genius let us leave 
alone. A main difference betwixt men is, whether they 
attend their own affair or not. Man is that noble en- 
dogenous plant which grows, like the palm, from within, 
outward. His own affair, though impossible* to others, he 
can open with celerity and in sport. It is easy to sugar 
to be sweet, and to nitre to be salt. We take a great deal 
of pains to waylay and entrap that which of itself will 



112 USES OF GREAT MEN 

fall into our hands. I count him a great man who inhabits 
a higher sphere of thought, into which other men rise with 
labor and difficulty; he has but to oi>en his eyes to see things 
in a true light, and in large relations; whilst they must 
make painful corrections, and keep a vigilant eye on many 
sources of error. His service to us is of like sort. It costs 
a beautiful person no exertion to paint her image on our 
eyes; yet how splendid is that benefit! It costs no more 
for a wise soul to convey his quality to other men. And 
every one can do his best thing easiest. "Peu de moyens, 
heaucowp d'effetJ* He is great who is what he is from nature, 
and who never reminds us of others. 

But he must be related to us, and our life receive from 
him some promise of explanation. I cannot tell what I 
would know; but I have observed there are persons, who, 
in their character and actions, answer questions which 
I have not skill to put. One man answers some questions 
which none of his contemporaries put, and is isolated. The 
past and passing religions and philosophies answer some 
other question. Certain men affect us as rich possibilities, 
but helpless to themselves and to their times, — ^the sport, 
perhaps, of some instinct that rules in the air; — they do 
not speak to our want. But the great are near: we know 
them at sight. They satisfy exi)ectation, and fall into 
place. What is good is effective, generative; makes for 
itself room, food, and allies. A sound apple produces seed, — 
a hybrid does not. Is a man^n his place, he is construc- 
tive, fertile, magnetic, inundating armies with his purpose, 
which is thus executed. The river makes its own shores, and 
each legitimate idea makes its own channels and welcome, — 
harvests for food, institutions for expression, weapons to 
fight with, and desciples to explain it. The true artist has 
the planet for his pedestal; the adventurer, after years of 
strife, has nothing broader than his own shoes. 

Our common discourse respects two kinds of use of ser- 
vice from superior men. Direct giving is agreeable to the 
early belief of men; direct giving of material or meta- 
physical aid, as of health, eternal youth, fine senses, arts 
of healing, magical power, and prophecy. The boy believes 



USES OF GREAT MEN 113 

there is a teacher who can sell him wisdom. Churches 
believe in imputed merit. But, in strictness, we are not 
much cognizant of direct serving. Man is endogenous, 
and education is his unfolding. The aid we have from others 
is mechanical, compared with the discoveries of nature in 
us. What is thus learned is delightful in the doing, and the 
effect remains. Right ethics are central, and go from the soul 
outward. Gift is contrary to the law of the imiverse. 
Serving others is serving us. I must absolve me to myself. 
"Mind thy affair," says the spirit: — ^''coxcomb, would you 
meddle with the skies, or with other people?" Indirect ser- 
vice is left. Men have a pictorial or representative quality, 
and serve us in the intellect. Behmen and Swedenborg 
saw that things were representative. Men are also rep- 
resentative; first, of things, and secondly, of ideas. 

As plants convert the minerals into food for animals, so 
each man converts some raw material in nature to human 
use. The inventors of fire, electricity, magnetism, iron, 
lead, glass, linen, silk, cotton; the makers of tools; the in- 
ventor of decimal notation; the geometer; the engineer; 
musician, — severally make an easy way for all, through 
unknown and impossible confusions. Each man is, by 
secret liking, connected with some district of nature, 
whose agent and interpreter he is, as Linnaeus, of plants; 
Huber, of bees; Fries, of lichens; Van Mons, of pears; 
Dalton, of atomic forms; Euclid, of hues; Newton, of 
fluxions. 

A man is a center for nature, running out threads of 
relation through every thing, fluid and solid, material and 
elemental. The earth rolls; every clod and stone comes to 
the meridian: so every organ, function, acid, crystal, grain 
of dust, has its relation to the brain. It waits long, but 
its turn comes. Each plant has its parasite, and each 
created thing its lover and poet. Justice has already been 
done to steam, to iron, to wood, to coal, to load stone, to 
iodine, to com, and cotton; but how few materials are yet 
used by our arts! The mass of creatures and of qualities 
are still hid and expectant. It would seem as if each waited, 
like tb.e enchanted princess in fairy tales^ for. a destined 



114 USES OF GREAT MEN 

human deliverer. Each must be disenchanted, and walk 
forth to the day in human shape. In the history of dis- 
covery, the ripe and latent truth seems to have fashioned a 
brain for itself. A magnet must be made man, in some 
Gilbert, or Swedenborg, or Oersted, before the general mind 
can come to entertain its powers. 

If we limit ourselves to the first advantages; — a sober 
grace adheres to the mineral and botanic kingdoms, which, 
in the highest moments, comes up as the charm of nature, — 
the glitter of the spar, the sureness of affinity, the veracity 
of angles. Light and darkness, heat and cold, himger and 
food, sweet and sour, solid, liquid, and gas, circle us round 
in a wreath of pleasures, and, by their agreeable quarrel, 
beguile the day of life. The eye repeats every day the 
finest eulogy on things — ^"He saw that they were good." We 
know where to find them; and these performers are relished 
all the more, after a Httle experience of the pretending races. 
We are entitled, also, to higher advantages. Something is 
wanting to science, until it has been humanized. The table 
of logarithms is one thing, and its vital play, in botany, 
music, optics, and architecture, another. There are ad- 
vancements to numbers, anatomy, architecture, astronomy, 
little suspected at first, when, by union with intellect and 
will, they ascend into the life, and reappear in conversation, 
character, and politics. 

But this comes later. We speak now only of our acquaint- 
ance with them in their own sphere, and the way in which 
they seem to fascinate and draw to them some genius who 
occupies himself with one thing, all his fife long. The pos- 
sibility of interpretation hes in the identity of the observer 
with the observed. Each material thing has its celestial 
side; has its translation, through humanity, into the spirit- 
ual and necessary sphere, where it plays a part as inde- 
structible as any other. And to these, their ends, all 
things continually ascend. The gases gather to the solid 
firmament: the chemic lump arrives at the plant, and grows; 
arrives at the quadruped, and walks; arrives at the man, 
and thinks. But also the constituency determines the vote 
of, the. representative. He is not only, representative, 



USES OF GREAT MEN 115 

but participant. Like can only be known by like. The 
reason why he knows about them is, that he is of them; 
he has just come out of nature, or from being a part of that 
thing. Animated chlorine knows of chlorine, and in- 
carnate zinc, of zinc. Their quahty makes this career; 
and he can variously publish their virtues, because they 
compose him. Man, made of the dust of the world, does 
not forget his origin; and all that is yet inanimate will one 
day speak and reason. Unpublished nature will have its 
whole secret told. Shall we say that quartz mountains 
will pulverize into innumerable Werners, Von Buchs, and 
Beaumonts; and the laboratory of the atmosphere holds in 
solution I know not what Berzehuses and Davys? 

Thus, we sit by the fire, and take hold on the poles of the 
earth. This quasi omnipresence supplies the imbecility 
of our condition. In one of those celestial days, when 
heaven and earth meet and adorn each other, it seems a 
poverty that we can only spend it once: we wish for a 
thousand heads, a thousand bodies, that we might celebrate 
its immense beauty in many ways and places. Is this 
fancy? Well, in good faith, we are multiplied by our prox- 
ies. How easily we adopt their labors! Every ship that 
comes to America got its chart from Columbus. Every 
novel is debtor to Homer. Every carpenter who shaves 
with a foreplane borrows the genius of a forgotten in- 
ventor. Life is girt all around with a zodiac of sciences, 
the contributions of men who have perished to add their 
point of light to our sky. Engineer, broker, jurist, physi- 
cian, moralist, theologian, and every man, inasmuch as he 
has any science, is a definer and map-maker of the latitudes 
and longitudes of our condition. These road-makers on 
every hand enrich us. We must extend the area of life, 
and multiply our relations. We are as much gainers by 
finding a new property in the old earth, as by acquiring a 
new planet. 

We are too passive in the reception of these material 
or semi-material aids. We must not be sacks and stomachs. 
Tq ascend one step, — we are better served through our 
sympathy. Activity is contagious. Looking where others 



116 USES OF GREAT MEN 

look, and conversing with the same things, we catch the 
charm which lured them. Napoleon said, "you must not 
fight too often with one enemy, or you will teach him all 
your art of war." Talk much with any man of vigorous 
mind, and we acquire very fast the habit of looking at 
things in the same light, and, on each occurrence, we antici- 
pate his thought. 

Men are helpful through the intellect and the affections. 
Other help, I find a false appearance. If you affect to give 
me bread and fire, I perceive that I pay for it the full price, 
and at last it leaves me as it found me, neither better nor 
worse: but all mental and moral force is a positive good. 
It goes out from you, whether you will or not, and profits 
me whom you never thought of. I cannot even hear of 
personal vigor of any kind, great power of performance, 
without fresh resolution. We are emulous of all that man 
can do. Cecil's saying of Sir Walter Raleigh, "I know that 
he can toil terribly," is an electric touch. So are Clarendon's 
portraits,— of Hampden; "who was of an industry and 
vigilance not to be tired out or wearied by the most labo- 
rious, and of parts not to be imposed on by the most subtle 
and sharp, and of a personal courage equal to his best 
parts" — of Falkland; "who was so severe an adorer of truth, 
that he could as easily have given himself leave to steal, 
as to dissemble." We cannot read Plutarch, without a 
tingling of the blood; and I accept the saying of the Chinese 
Mencius: "A sage is the instructor of a hundred ages. 
When the manners of Loo are heard of, the stupid become 
intelligent, and the wavering, determined." 

This is the moral of biography; yet it is hard for de- 
parted men to touch the quick like our own companions, 
whose names may not last as long. 'V\^at is he whom I never 
think of? whilst in every solitude are those who succor our 
genius, and stimulate us in wonderful manners. There is 
a power in love to divine another's destiny better than 
that other can, and by heroic encouragements, hold him 
to his task. What has friendship so signaled as its sub- 
lime attraction to whatever virtue is in us? We will 
never more think cheaply of ourselves, or of life. We a^:e 



USES OF GREAT MEN 117 

piqued to some purpose, and the industry of the diggers 
on the railroad will not again shame us. 

Under this head, too, falls that homage, very pure, as I 
think, which all ranks pay to the hero of the day, from 
Coriolanus and Gracchus, down to Pitt, Lafayette, Well- 
ington, Webster, Lamartine. Hear the shouts in the street ! 
The people cannot see him enough. They delight in a man. 
Here is a head and a trunk! What a front! What eyes! 
Atlantean shoulders, and the whole carriage heroic, with equal 
inward force to guide the great machine! This pleasure 
of full expression to that which, in their private experience, 
is usually cramped and obstructed, runs, also, much higher, 
and is the secret of the reader's joy in literary genius. 
Nothing is kept back. There is fire enough to fuse the 
mountain of ore. Shakspeare's principal merit may be con- 
veyed, in saying that he, of all men, best understands the 
English language, and can say what he will. Yet these 
unchoked channels and floodgates of expression are only 
health or fortunate constitution. Shakspeare's name sug- 
gests other and purely intellectual benefits. 

Senates and sovereigns have no compliment, with their 
medals, swords, and armorial coats, like the addressing to 
a human being thoughts out of a certain height, and pre- 
supposing his intelligence. This honor, which is possible 
in personal intercourse scarcely twice in a lifetime, genius 
perpetually pays; contented, if now and then, in a century, 
the proffer is accepted. The indicators of the values of 
matter are degraded to a sort of cooks and confectioners, 
on the appearance of the indicators of ideas. Genius is 
the naturalist or geographer of the supersensible regions, 
and draws on their map; and, by acquainting us with new 
fields of activity, cools our affection for the old. These are 
at once accepted as the reality, of which the world we have 
conversed with is the show. 

We go to the gymnasium and the swimming-school to see 
the power and beauty of the body; there is the like pleasure, 
and a higher benefit, from witnessing intellectual feats of all 
kinds; as, feats of memory, of mathematical combination, 
great power of abstraction, the transmutings of the imagin- 



118 USES OF GREAT MEN 

ation, even versatility, and concentration, as these acts ex-. 
pose the invisible organs and members of the mind, which re- 
spond, member for member to the parts of the body. For, 
we thus enter a new gynmasiimi, and learn to choose men 
by their truest marks, taught, with Plato, "to choose those 
who can, without aid from the eyes, or any other sense, 
proceed to truth and to being." Foremost among these 
activities, are the somersaults, spells, and resurrections, 
wrought by the imagination. When this wakes, a man seems 
to multiply ten times or a thousand times his force. It 
opens the dehcious setise of intermediate size, and inspires 
an audacious mental habit. We are as elastic as the gas of 
gunpowder, and a sentence in a book, or a word dropped 
in conversation, sets free our fancy, and instantly our heads 
are bathed with galaxies, and our feet tread the floor of the 
Pit. And this benefit is real, because we are entitled to 
these enlargements, and, once having passed the bounds, 
shall never again be quite the miserable pedants we were. 

The high functions of the intellect are so allied, that some 
imaginative power usually appears in all eminent minds, 
even in arithmeticians of the first class, but especially in 
meditative men of an intuitive habit of thought. This 
class serve us, so that they have the perception of identity 
and the perception of reaction. The eyes of Plato, Shak- 
speare, Swedenborg, Goethe, never shut on either of these 
laws. The perception of these laws is a kind of metre of 
the mind. Little minds are little, through failure to see 
them. 

Even these feasts have their surfeit. Our delight in 
reason degenerates into idolatry of the herald. Especially 
when a mind of powerful method has instructed men, we 
find the examples of oppression. The dominion of Aristotle, 
the Ptolemaic astronomy, the credit of Luther, of Bacon, 
of Locke, — ^in religion the history of hierarchies, of saints, 
and the sects which have taken the name of each founder, 
are in point. Alas! every man is such a victim. The im- 
becility of men is always inviting the impudence of power. 
It is the delight of vulgar talent to dazzle and to bind the 
beholder. But true genius seeks to defend us from itself. 



USES OF GREAT MEN 119 

True genius will not impoverish, but will liberate, and add 
new senses. If a wise man should appear in our village, he 
would create, in those who conversed with him, a new con- 
sciousness of wealth, by opening their eyes to unobserved 
advantages; he would estabhsh a sense of inmiovable 
equahty, calm us with assurances that we could not be 
cheated; as every one would discern the checks and guaran- 
ties of condition. The rich would see their mistakes and 
poverty, the poor their escapes and their resources. 

But nature brings all this about in due time. Rotation 
is her remedy. The soul is impatient of masters, and eager 
for change. Housekeepers say of a domestic who has been 
valuable, "She had lived with me long enough." We are 
tendencies, or rather, symptoms, and none of us complete. 
We touch and go, and sip the foam of many lives. Rotation 
is the law of nature. When nature removes a great man, 
people explore the horizon for a successor; but none comes 
and none will. His class is extinguished with him. In 
some other and quite different field, the next man will ap- 
pear; not Jefferson, not Franklin, but now a great salesman; 
then a road-contractor; then a student of fishes; then a 
buffalo-hunting explorer, or semi-savage western general. 
Thus we make a stand against our rougher masters; but 
against the best there is a finer remedy. The power 
which they communicate is not theirs. When we are ex- 
alted by ideas, we do not owe this to Plato, but to the idea, 
to which, also, Plato was debtor, 

I must not forget that we have a special debt to a single 
class. life is a scale of degrees. Between rank and rank of 
our great men are wide intervals. Mankind have, in all 
ages, attached themselves to £C few persons, who, either 
by the quality of that idea they embodied, or by the large- 
ness of their reception, were entitled to the position of 
leaders and law-givers. These teach us the qualities of 
primary nature, — admit us to the constitution of things. 
We swim, day by day, on a river of delusions, and are 
effectually amused with houses and towns in the air, of 
which the men about us are dupes. But life is a sincerity. 
In lucid intervals we say, "Let there be an entrance opened 



120 USES OF GREAT MEN 

for me into realities. I have worn the foors cap too long.* 
We will know the meaning of our economies and politics. 
Give us the cipher, and, if persons and things are scores of 
a celestial music, let us read off the strains. We have been 
cheated of our reason; yet there have been sane men, who 
enjoyed a rich and related existence. What they know, they 
know for us. With each new mind, a new secret of nature 
transpires; Lor can the Bible be closed, until the last great 
man is bom. These men collect the ddiriiun of the animal 
spirits, make us considerate, and engage us to new aims and 
powers. The veneration of mankind selects these for the 
highest place. Witness the multitude of statues, pictures, 
and memorials, which recall their genius in every city, 
village, house, and ship : — 

"Ever their phantoms arise before us, 

Our loftier brothers, but one in blood; 
At bed and table they lord it o*er us. 

With looks of beauty, and words of good." 

How to illustrate the distinctive benefit of ideas, the service 
rendered by those wjio introduce moral truths into the gen- 
eral mind? — I am plagued, in all my living, with a perpetual 
tariff of prices. If I work in my garden, and prune an apple- 
tree, I am well enough entertriined, and could continue in- 
definitely in the like occupation. But it comes to mind 
that a day is gone, and I have got this precious nothing done. 
I go to Boston or New York, and run up and down on my 
affairs; they are sped, but so is the day. I am vexed by 
the recollection of this price I have paid for a trifling advan- 
tage. I remember the peau d'dne, on which whoso sat 
should have his desire, but.a piece of the skin was gone for 
every wish. I go to a convention of philanthropists. Do 
what I can, I cannot keep my eyes off the cfock. But if 
there should appear in the company some gentle soul who 
knows Kttle of persons or parties, of Carolina or Cuba, but 
who announces a law that disposes these particulars, and 
so certifies me of the equity which checkmates every false 
player, bankrupts every self-seeker, and apprises me of my 
independence on any conditions of country, or time or human 



USES OF GREAT MEN 121 

body, that man liberates me; I forget the clock. I pass 
out of the sore relation to persons. I am healed of my 
hurts. I am made immortal by apprehending my posses- 
sion of incorruptible goods. Here is great competition of 
rich and poor. We live in a market, where is only so 
much wheat, or wool, or land; and if I have so much more, 
every other must have so much less. I seem to have no 
good, without breach of good manners. Nobody is glad 
in the gladness of another, and our system is one of war, of 
an injurious superiority. Every child of the Saxon race 
is educated to wish to be first. It is our system; and a man 
comes to measure his greatness by the regrets, envies, and 
hatreds of his competitors. But in these new fields there 
is room: here are no self-esteems, no exclusions. 

I admire great men of all classes, those who stand for facts, 
and for thoughts; I like rough and smooth, "Scourges of 
God," and "Darhngs of the human race." I like the first 
Caesar; and Charles V., of Spain; and Charles XII., of 
Sweden; Bichard Plantagenet; and Bonaparte, in France. 
I applaud a sufficient man, an officer equal to his office; 
captains, ministers, senators. I Uke a master standing firm 
on legs of iron, well-bom, rich, handsome, eloquent, loaded 
with advantages, drawing all men by fascination into trib- 
utaries and supporters of his power. Sword and staff, 
or talents sword-like or staff-like, carry on the work 
of the world. But I find him greater, when he can abolish 
himself, and all heroes, by letting in this element of reason, 
irrespective of persons; this subtihzer, and irresistible up- 
ward force, into our thought, destroying individualism; 
the power so great, that the potentate is nothing. Then 
he is a monarch, who gives a constitution to his people; 
a pontiff, who preaches the equality of souls, and releases 
his servants from their barbarous homages; an emperor, who 
can spare his empire. 

But I intended to specify, with a little minuteness, two or 
three points of service. Nature never spares the opium of 
nepenthe; but wherever she mars her creature with some 
deformity or defect, lays her poppies plentifully on the 
bruise, and the sufferer goes joyfully through fife, ignorant 



122 USES OF GREAT MEN 

of the ruin, and incapable of seeing it, though all the world 
point their finger at it every day. The worthless and 
offensive members of society, whose existence is a social pest, 
invariably think themselves the most ill-used people alive, 
and never get over their astonishment at the ingratitude and 
selfishness of their contemporaries. Our globe discovers its 
hidden virtues, not only in heroes and archangels, but in 
gossips and nurses. Is it not a rare contrivance that lodged 
the due inertia in every creature, the conserving, resisting 
energy, the anger at being waked or changed? Altogether 
independent of the intellectual force in each, is the pride of 
opinion, the security that we are right. Not the feeblest 
grandame, not a mowing idiot, but uses what spark of per- 
ception and faculty is left, to chuckle and triumph in his 
or her opinion over the absurdities of all the rest. Differ- 
ence from me is the measure of absurdity. Not one has a 
misgiving of being wrong. Was it not a bright thought that 
made things cohere with this bitumen, fastest of cements? 
But, in the midst of this chuckle of self-gratulation, some 
figure goes by, which Thersites too can love and admire. 
This is he that should marshal us the way we were going. 
There is no end to his aid. Without Plato, we should almost 
lose our faith in the possibility of a reasonable book. We 
seem to want but one, but we want one. We love to asso- 
ciate with heroic persons, since our receptivity is unlimited; 
and, with the great, our thoughts and manners easily be- 
come great. We are all wise in capacity, though so few in 
energy. There needs but one wise man in a company, and 
all are wise, so rapid is the contagion. 

Great men are thus a collyrium to clear our eyes from 
egotism, and enable us to see other people and their works. 
But there are vices and follies incident to whole populations 
and ages. Men resemble their contemporaries, even more 
than their progenitors. It is observed in old couples, or 
in persons who have been housemates for a course of years, 
that they grow alike; and, if they should live long enough, 
we should not be able to know them apart. Nature ab- 
hors these complaisances, which threaten to melt the world 
into a lump, and hastens to break up such maudlin agglu- 



USES OF^REAT MEN 123 

tinations. The like assimilation goes on between men of 
one town, of one sect, of one political party; and the ideas 
of the time are in the air, and infect all who breathe it. 
Viewed from any high point, this city of New York, yonder 
city of London, the western civilization, would seem a bundle 
of insanities. We keep each other in countenance, and ex- 
asperate by emulation the frenzy of the time. The shield 
against the stingings of conscience, is the universal prac- 
tice, or our contemporaries. Again; it is very easy to 
be as wise and good as your companions. We learn of our 
contemporaries what they know, without effort, and almost 
through the pores of the skin. We catch it by sympathy, 
or, as a wife arrives at the intellectual and moral ele- 
vations of her husband. But we stop where they stop. 
Very hardly can we take another step. The great, or such 
as hold of nature, and transcend fashions, by their fideUty 
to universal ideas, are saviors from these federal errors, and 
defend us from our contemporaries. They are the excep- 
tions which we want, where all grows alike. A foreign great- 
ness is the antidote for cabalism. 

Thus we feed on genius, and refresh ourselves from too 
much conversation with our mates, and exult in the depth 
of nature in that direction in which he leads us. What in- 
denmification is one great man for populations of pigmies! 
Every mother wishes one son a genius, though all the rest 
should be mediocre. But a new danger appears in the excess 
of influence of the great man. His attractions warp us from 
our place. We have become underlings and intellectual 
suicides. Ah! yonder in the horizon is our help: — other 
great men, new quahties, counterweights and checks on each 
other. We cloy of the honey of each peculiar greatness. 
Every hero becomes a bore at last. Perhaps Voltaire was 
not bad-hearted, yet he said of the good Jesus, even, "I 
pray you, let me never hear that man's name again." They 
cry up the virtues of George Washington, — "Damn George 
Washington!" is the poor Jacobin's whole speech and con- 
futation. But it is human nature's indispensible defence. 
The centripetence augments the centrifugence. We balance 
one man with his opposite, and the health of the state de- 



124 USES OF GREAT MEN 

pends on the see-saw. 

There is, however, a speedy limit to the use of heroes. 
Every genius is defended from approach by quantities of 
availableness. They are very attractive, and seem at a 
distance our own : but we are hindered on all sides from ap- 
proach. The more we are drawn, the more we are repelled. 
There is something not solid in the good that is done for us. 
The best discovery the discoverer makes for himself. It 
has something unreal for his companion, until he too has sub- 
stantiated it. It seems as if the Deity dressed each soul which 
he sends into nature in certain virtues and powers not com- 
municable to other men, and, sending it to perform one more 
turn through the circle of beings, wrote "Not transferable" 
and "Good for this trip only" on these garments of the soul. 
There is somewhat deceptive about the intercourse of minds. 
The boundaries are invisible, but they are never crossed. 
There is such good will to impart, and such good will to 
receive, that each threatens to become the other; but the law 
of individuality collects its secret strength : you are you, and 
I am I, and so we remain. 

For Nature wishes every thing to remain itself; and, 
whilst every individual strives to grow and exclude, and to 
exclude and grow, to the extremities of the universe, and to 
impose the law of its being on every other creature. Nature 
steadily aims to protect each against every other. Each 
is self-defended. Nothing is more marked than the power 
by which individuals are guarded from individuals, in a 
world where every benefactor becomes so easily a malefactor, 
only by continuation of his activity into places where it is 
not due; where children seem so much at the mercy of their 
foolish parents, and where almost all men are too social and 
interfering. We rightly speak of the guardian angels of 
children. How superior in their security from infusions of 
evil persons, from vulgarity and second thought! They 
shed their own abundanrbeauty on the objects they behold. 
Therefore, they are not at the mercy of such poor educators 
as we adults. If we huff and chide them, they soon come not 
to mind it, and get a self-reliance; and if we indulge them to 
folly, they learn the limitation elsewhere. 



USES OF GREAT MEN 125 

We need not fear excessive influence. A more generous 
trust is permitted. Serve the great. Stick at no humil- 
iation. Grudge no office thou canst render. Be the Umb of 
their body, the breath of their mouth. Compromise thy 
egotism. Who cares for that, so thou gain aught wider and 
nobler? Never mind the taunt of Boswellism: the devotion 
may easily be greater than the wretched pride which is 
guarding its own skirts. Be another: not thyself, but a 
Platonist; not a soul, but a Christian; not a naturalist, but 
a Cartesian; not a poet, but a Shakspearian. In vain, 
the wheels of tendency will not stop, nor will all the forces 
of inertia, fear, or of love itself, hold thee there. On, and 
forever onward! The microscope observes a monad or 
wheel-insect among the infusories circulating in water. 
Presently, a dot appears on the animal, which enlarges to a 
slit, and it becomes two perfect animals. The ever-proceeding 
detachment appears not less in all thought, and in society. 
Children think they cannot live without their parents. But, 
long before they are aware of it, the black dot has appeared, 
and the detachment taken place. Any accident will now 
reveal to them their independence. 

But great men: — ^the word is injurious. Is there caste? 
is there fate? What becomes of the promise to virtue? 
The thoughtful youth laments the superfoetation of nature. 
"Generous and handsome," he says, "is your hero; but look 
at yonder poor Paddy, whose country is his wheel-barrow; 
look at his whole nation of Paddies." Why are the masses, 
from the dawn of history down, food for knives and powder? 
The idea dignifies a few leaders, who have sentiment, opin- 
ion, love, self-devotion; and they make war and death 
sacred; — ^but what for the wretches whom they hire and kill? 
The cheapness of man is every day's tragedy. It is as real 
a loss that others should be low, as that we should be low; 
for we must have society. 

Is it a reply to these suggestions, to say, society is a 
Pestalozzian school: all are teachers and pupils in turn. 
We are equally served by receiving and by imparting. Men 
who know the same things, are not long the best company 
for each other. But bring to each an intelligent person of 



126 USES OF GREAT MEN 

another experience, and it is as if you let off water from a 
lake, by cutting a lower basin. It seems a mechanical ad- 
vantage, and great benefit it is to each speaker, as he can 
now paint out his thought to himself. We pass very fast, 
in our personal moods, from dignity to dependence. And 
if any appear never to assiune the chair, but always to stand 
and serve, it is because we do not see the company in a 
sufficiently long period for the whole rotation of parts to 
come about. As to what we call the masses, and common 
men; — there are no common men. All men are at last 
of a size; and true art is only possible, on the conviction that 
every talent has its apotheosis somewhere. Fair play, 
and an open field, and freshest laurels to all who have won 
them! But heaven reserves an equal scope for every crea- 
ture. Each is imeasy until he has produced his private 
ray imto the concave sphere, and beheld his talent also 
in its last nobility and exaltation. 

The heroes of the hour are relatively great: of a faster 
growth; or they are such, in whom, at the moment of suc- 
cess, a quality is ripe which is then in request. Other days 
will demand other quaUties. Some rays escape the common 
observer, and want a finely adapted eye. Ask the great 
man if there be none greater. His companions are; and not 
the less great, but the more, that society cannot see them. 
Nature never sends a great man into the planet, without 
confiding the secret to another soul. 

One gracious fact emerges from these studies, — ^that there 
is true ascension in our love. The reputations of the 
nineteenth century will one day be quoted to prove its bar- 
barism. The genius of humanity is the real subject whose 
biography is written in our annals. We must infer much, 
and supply many chasms in the record. The history of 
the universe is symptomatic, and fife is mnemonical. No 
man, in all the procession of famous men, is reason or illum- 
ination, or that essence we were looking for; but is an ex- 
hibition, in some quarter, of new possibilities. Could we 
one day complete the immense figure which these flagrant 
points compose! The study of many individuals leads us to 
»Ji elemental region wherein the individual is lost, or 



USES OF GREAT MEN 127 

wherein all touch by their summits. Thought and feeling, 
that break out there, cannot be impounded by any fence 
of personaUty. This is the key to the power of the greatest 
men,— their spirit diffuses itself. A new quahty of mind 
travels by night and by day, in concentric circles from its 
origin, and publishes itself by unknown methods: the union 
of all minds appears intimate: what gets admission to one, 
cannot be kept out of any other: the smallest acquisition 
of truth or of energy, in any quarter, is so much good to 
the conunonwealth of souls. If the disparities of talent 
and position vanish, when the individuals are seen in the 
duration which is necessary to complete the career of each; 
even more swiftly the seeming injustice disappears, when we 
ascend to the central identity of all the individuals, and know 
that they are made of the same substance which ordaineth 
and doeth. 

The genius of humanity is the right point of view of his- 
tory. The qualities abide; the men who exhibit them have 
now more, or less, and pass away; the qualities remain on 
another brow. No experience is more familiar. Once you 
saw phoenixes: they are gone; the world is not therefore 
disenchanted. The vessels on which you read sacred em- 
blems turn out to be conunon pottery; but the sense of 
the pictures is sacred, and you may still read them trans- 
ferred to the walls of the world. For a time, our teachers 
serve us personally, as metres or milestones of progress. 
Once they were angels of knowledge, and their figures touched 
the sky. Then we drew near, saw their means, culture, 
and limits; and they yielded their place to other geniuses. 
Happy, if a few names remain so high, that we have not been 
able to read them nearer, and age and comparison have 
not robbed them of a ray. But, at last, we shall cease to 
look in men for completeness, and shall content ourselves 
with their social and delegated quality. All that respects 
the individual is temporary and prospective, like the in- 
dividual himself, who is ascending out of his limits, into a 
catholic existence. We have never come at the true and 
best benefit of any genius, so long as we believe him an orig- 
inal force. In the moment when he ceases to help us as d 



128 USES OF GREAT MEJT 

cause, he begins to help us move as an effect. Then he 
appears as an exponent of a vaster mind and will. The 
opaque s^ becomes transparent with the hght of the First 
Cause. 

Yet, within the limits of human education and agency, 
we may say, great men exist that there may be greater men. 
The destiny of organized nature is amehoration, and who can 
tell its limits? It is for man to tame the chaos; on every 
side, whilst he hves, to scatter the seeds of science and of 
song, that climate, com, animals, men, may be milder, and 
the germs of love and benefit may be multipUed. 



VI 

SPIRITUAL LAWS 

When the act of reflection takes place in the mind, when 
we look at ourselves in the hght of thought, we discover that 
our hfe is embosomed in beauty. Behind us, as we go, all 
things assume pleasing forms, as clouds do far off. Not only 
things famihar and stale, but even the tragic and terrible 
are comely, as they take their place in the pictures of mem- 
ory. The river-bank, the weed at the water-side, the old 
house, the foolish person, — ^however neglected in the pass- 
ing, — have a grace in the past. Even the corpse that has 
lain in the chambers has added a solemn ornament to the 
house. The soul will not know either deformity or pain. 
If in the hours of clear reason we should speak the severest 
truth, we should say, that we had never made a sacrifice. 
In these hours the mind seems so great, that nothing can 
be taken from us that seems much. All loss, all pain is 
particular: the universe remains to the heart unhurt. Dis- 
tress never, trifles never abate our trust. No man ever 
stated his griefs as lightly as he might. Allow for ex- 
aggeration in the most patient and sorely ridden hack that 
ever was driven. For it is only the finite that has wrought 
and suffered; the infinite lies stretched in smiling repose. 

The intellectual life may be kept clean and healthful, 
if man will live the life of nature, and not import into his 
mind difficulties which are none of his. No man need be 
perplexed in his speculations. Let him do and say what 
strictly belongs to him, and, though very ignorant of books, 
his nature shall not yield him any intellectual obstructions 
and doubts. Our young people are diseased with the 
theological problems of original sin, origin of evil, pre- 
destination, and the like. These never presented a prac- 
tical difficulty to any man, — never darkened across any 



130 SPIRITUAL LAWS 

man's road, who did not go out of his way to seek them. 
These are the soul's miunps and measles and whooping- 
coughs; and those who have not caught them cannot describe 
their health or prescribe the cure. A simple mind will not 
know these enemies. It is quite another thing that he should 
be able to give account of his faith, and expound to an- 
other theory of his self-union and freedom. This requires 
rare gifts. Yet without this self-knowledge, there may be 
a sylvan strength and integrity in that which he is. "A 
few strong instincts and a few plain rules" suffice us. 

My will never gave the images of my mind the rank they 
now take. The regular course of studies, the years of aca- 
demical and professional education, have not yielded me 
better facts than some idle books under the bench at the 
Latin school. What we do not call education is more pre- 
cious than that which we call so. We form no guess at 
the time of receiving a thought, of its comparative value. 
And education often wastes its effort in attempts to thwart 
and baulk this natural magnetism, which with sure dis- 
crimination selects its own. 

In like manner, our moral nature is vitiated by any 
interference of our will. People represent virtue as a 
struggle, and take to themselves great airs upon their attain- 
ments; and the question is everywhere vexed, when a noble 
nature is conmiended. Whether the man is not better who 
strives with temptation? But there is no merit in the matter. 
Either God is there, or he is not there. We love characters 
in proportion as they are impulsive and spontaneous. The 
less a man thinks or knows about his virtues the better we 
like him. Timoleon's victories are the best victories; which 
ran and flowed like Homer's verses, Plutarch said. When 
we see a soul whose acts are all regal, graceful and i4easant 
as roses, we must thank God that such things can be and 
are, and not turn sourly on the angel, and say, "Crump is 
a better man with his grunting resistance to all his native 
devils." 

Not less conspicuous is the preponderance of nature over 
will in all practical life. There is less intention in his- 
tory than we ascribe to it. We impute deep-laid, far- 



SPIRITUAL LAWS 131 

sighted plans to Caesar and Napoleon; but the best of their 
power was m nature, not in them. Men of an extraordi- 
nary success, in their honest moments have always sung, "Not 
unto us, not unto us." According to the faith of their times, 
they have built altars to Fortune or to Destiny, or to St. 
Julian. Their success lay in their parallelism to the course 
of thought, which found in them an unobstructed channel; 
and the wonders of which they were the visible conductors 
seemed to the eye their deed. Did the wires generate the gal- 
vanism? It is even true that there was less in them on which 
they could reflect than in another; as the virtue of a pipe is 
to be smooth and hollow. That which externally seemed 
will and immovableness, was willingness and self-annihil- 
ation. CJould Shakspeare give a theory of Shakspeare? 
Could ever a man of prodigious mathematical genius convey 
to others any insight into his methods? If he could com- 
municate that secret, instantly it would lose all its exagger- 
ated value, blending with the dayUght and the vital energy, 
the power to stand and to go. 

The lesson is forcibly taught by the observations, that 
our life might be much easier and simpler than we make it; 
that the world might be a happier place than it is; that 
there is no need of struggles, convulsions, and despairs, 
of the wringing of the hands and the gnashing of the teeth; 
that we miscreate our own evils. We interfere with the optim- 
ism of nature; for, whenever we get this vantage-ground of 
the past, or of a wiser mind in the present, we are able to dis- 
cern that we are begirt with spiritual laws which execute 
themselves. 

The face of external nature teaches the same lesson with 
calm superiority. Nature will not have us fret and fume. 
She does not like our benevolence or our learning, much 
better than she likes our frauds and wars. When we come 
out of the caucus, or the bank, or the AboUtion-convention, 
or the Temperance-meeting, or the Transcendental club, 
into the fields and woods, she says to us, "So hot? my little 
sir." 

We are full of mechanical actions. We must needs inter- 
meddle, and bav^ things i» our own way, until the sacrifices 



132 SPIRITUAL LAWS 

and virtues of society are odious. Love should make joy;^ 
but our benevolence is unhappy. Dur Sunday-schools, and 
churches, and pauper-societies, are yokes to the neck. We 
pain ourselves to please nobody. There are natural ways of 
arriving at the same ends at which these aim/ but do not 
arrive. Why should all virtue work in one and the same 
way? Why should all give dollars? It is very incon- 
venient to us country folk, and we do not think any good 
will come of it. We have not dollars. Merchants have: let 
them give them. Farmers will give com. Poets will sing. 
Women will sew. Laborers will lend a hand. The children 
will bring flowers. And why drag this dead weight of a 
Sunday-School over the whole Christendom? It is natural 
and beautiful that childhood should inquire, and maturity 
should teach; but it is time enough to answer questions when 
they are asked. Do not shut up the young people against 
their will in a pew, and force the children to ask them ques- 
tions for an hour against their will. 

If we look wider, things are all alike; laws, and letters, 
and creeds, and modes of hving, seem a travesty of truth. 
Our society is encumbered by ponderous machinery, which 
resembles the endless aqueducts which the Romans built 
over hill and dale, and which are superseded by the discovery 
of the law that water rises to the level of its source. It 
is a Chinese wall, which any nimble Tartar can leap over. 
It is a standing army, not so good as a peace. It is a grad- 
uated, titled, richly appointed Empire, quite superfluous 
when Town-meetings are found to answer just as well. 

Let us draw a lesson from nature, which always works by 
short ways. When the fruit is ripe, it falls. When the 
fruit is despatched, the leaf falls. The circuit of the waters 
is mere falling. The walking of man and all animals is a 
falling forward. All our manual labor and works of strength, 
as prying, splitting, digging, rowing, and so forth, are done 
by dhit of continuar falling; and the globe, earth, moon, 
comet, sun, star, fall forever and ever. 

The simplicity of the imiverse is very different from the 
simplicity of a machine. He who sees moral nature out 
and out, and thoroughly knows how knowledge is acquired 



SPIRITUAL LAWS 133 

and character formed, is a pedant. The shnplicity of nature 
is not that which may easily be read, but is inexhaustible. 
The last analysis can no wise be made. We judge of a 
man's wisdom by his hope, knowing that the perception of 
the inexhaustibleness of nature is an immortal youth. The 
wild fertility of nature is felt in comparing our rigid names 
and reputations with our fluid consciousness. We pass in 
the world for sects and schools, for erudition and piety; and 
we are all the time jejune babes. One sees very well how 
Pyrrhonism grew up. Every man sees that he is that 
middle point whereof every thing may be affirmed and de- 
nied with equal reason. He is old, he is young, he is very 
wise, he is altogether ignorant. He hears and feels what 
you say of the seraphim and of the tin-pedlar. There is 
no permanent wise man, except in the figment of the stoics. 
We side with the hero, as we read or paint, against the 
coward and the robber; but we have been ourselves that 
coward and robber, and shall be again, not in the low circum- 
stance, but in comparison with the grandeurs possible to 
the soul. 

A little consideration of what takes place around us 
every day would show us that a higher law than that of 
our will regulates events; that our painful labors are very un- 
necessary, and altogether fruitless; that only in our easy, 
simple, spontaneous action are we strong, and by contenting 
ourselves with obedience we become divine. Belief and 
love, — ^a believing love will relieve us of a vast load of care. 
O my brothers, God exists. There is a soul at the center 
of nature, and over the will of every man, so that none of 
us can wrong the universe. It has so infused its strong en- 
chantment into nature, that we prosper when we accept its 
advice; and when we struggle to wound its creatures, our 
hands are glued to our sides, or they beat our own breasts. 
The whole course of things goes to teach us faith. We need 
only obey. There is guidance for each of us, and by lowly 
listening we shall hear the right word. Why need you choose 
so painfully your place, and occupation, and associates, and 
modes of action and of entertainment? Certainly there 
is a possible right for you, that precludes the need of bal- 



134 SPIRITUAL LAWS 

ance and wilful election. For you there is a reality, a fit 
place and congenial duties. Place yourself in the middle 
of the stream of power and wisdom which flows into you as 
life, place yourself in the full center of that flood, then you 
are without effort impelled to truth, to right, and a perfect 
contentment. Then you put all gainsayers in the wrong. 
Then you are the world, the measure of right, of truth, of 
beauty. If we will not be marplots with our miserable in- 
terferences, the work, the society, letters, arts, science, re- 
ligion of men, would go on far better than now; and the 
Heaven predicted from the beginning of the world, and still 
predicted from the bottom of the heart, would organize 
itself, as do now the rose and the air and the sun. 

I say, do not choose; but that is a figure of speech by 
which I would distinguish what is commonly called choice 
among men, and which is a partial act, the choice of the 
hands, of the eye, of the appetites, and not a whole act of 
the man. But that which I call right or goodness, is the 
choice of my constitution; and that which I call heaven, 
and inwardly aspire after, is the state or circumstance 
desirable to my constitution; and the action which I in 
all my years tend to do, is the work for my faculties. We 
must hold a man amenable to reason for the choice of his 
daily craft or profession. It is not an excuse any longer for 
his deeds that they are the custom of his trade. What busi- 
ness has he with an evil trade? Has he not a calling in his 
character? 

Each man has his own vocation. The talent is the call. 
There is one direction in which all space is open to him. 
He has faculties silently inviting him thither to endless ex- 
ertion. He is like a ship in a river; he runs against ob- 
structions on every side but one; on that side, all obstruc- 
tion is taken away, and he sweeps serenely over God's 
depths into an infinite sea. This talent and this call depend 
on his organization, or the mode in which the general soul 
incarnates itself in him. He inclines to do something which 
is easy to him, and good when it is done, but which no other 
man can do. He has no rival. For the more truly he con- 
sults his own powers, the more difference will his work ex- 



SPIRITUAL LAWS 135 

hibit from the work of any other. When he is true and 
faithful, his ambition is exactly proportioned to his powers. 
The height of the pinnacle is determined by the breadth of 
the base. Every man has this call of the power to do some- 
what unique, and no man has any other call. The pre- 
tence that he has another call^ a sununons by name and per- 
sonal election and outward ''signs that mark him extraor- 
dinary, and not in the roll of common men/' is fanaticism, 
and betrays obtuseness to perceive that there is one mind in 
all the individuals, and no respect of persons therein. 

By doing his work, he makes the need felt which he can 
supply. He creates the taste by which he is enjoyed. 
He provokes the wants to which he can minister. By 
doing his own work, he unfolds himself. It is the vice 
of our public speaking, that it has not abandonment. 
Somewhere, not only every orator, but every man, should 
let out all the length of all the reins; should find or make a 
frank and hearty expression of what force and meaning is 
in him. The common experience is, that the man fits him- 
self as well as he can to the customary details of that work 
or trade he falls into, and tends it as a dog turns a spit. 
Then is he a part of the machine he moves; the man is lost. 
Until he can manage to communicate himself to others in 
his full stature and proportion as a wise and good man, he 
does not yet find his vocation. He must find in that an 
outlet for his character, so that he may justify himself to 
their eyes for doing what he does. If the labor is trivial, 
let him by his thinking and character make it liberal. 
Whatever he knows and thinks, whatever in his apprehen- 
sion is worth doing, that let him communicate, or mefi will 
never know and honor him aright. Foolish, whenever you 
take the meanness and formality of that thing you do, 
instead of converting it into the obedient spiracle of your 
character and aims. 

We like only such actions as have already long had the 
praise of men; and do not perceive that any thing man 
can do may be divinely done. We think greatness entailed 
or organized in some places or duties, in certain offices or 
occasions; and do not see that Paganini can extract rap- 



136 SPIRITUAL LAWS 

ture from a catgut, and Eulenstein from a jews-harp, and 
a nimble-fingered lad out of shreds of paper with his scissors, 
and Landseer out of swine^ and the hero out of the pitiful 
habitation and company in which he was hidden. What 
we call obscure condition or vulgar society, is that condition 
and society whose poetry is not yet written, but which you 
shall presently make as enviable and renowned as any. 
Accept your genius, and say what you think. In our esti- 
mates, let us take a lesson from kings. The parts of hos- 
pitality, the connexion of families, the impressiveness of 
death, and a thousand other things, royalty makes its own 
estimate of, and a royal mind will. To make habitually a 
new estimate, — that is elevation. 

What a man does, that he has. What has he to do with 
hope or fear? In himself is his might. Let him regard no 
good as solid but that which is in his nature, and which must 
grow out of him as long as he exists. The goods of fortune 
may come and go like summer leaves; let him play with 
them and scatter them on every wind, as the momentary 
signs of his infinite productiveness. 

He may have his own. A man's genius, the quality that 
differences him from every other, the susceptibility to one 
class of influences, the selection of what is fit for him, the 
rejection of what is unfit, determines for him the character 
of the universe. As a man thinketh, so is he; and as a man 
chooseth, so is he and so is nature. A man is a method, 
a progressive arrangement; a selecting principle, gathering 
his like to him, wherever he goes. He takes only his own, 
out of the multiplicity that sweeps and circles round him. 
He is like one of those booms which are set out from the 
shore on rivers to catch drift-wood, or like the loadstone 
amongst splinters of steel. 

Those facts, words, persons, which dwell in his memory 
without his being able to say why, remain, because they 
have a relation to him not less real for being as yet un- 
apprehended. They are symbols of value to him, as they 
can interpret parts of his consciousness which he would 
vainly seek words for in the conventional images of books 
and other minds. What attracts my attention shall have 



SPIRITUAL LAWS 137 

it; as I will go to the man who knocks at my door, whilst a 
thousand persons, as worthy, go by it, to whom I give no 
regard. It is enough that these particulars speak to me. 
A few anecdotes, a few traits of character, manners, face, a 
few incidents, have an emphasis in your memory out of all 
proportion to their apparent significance, if you measure 
them by the ordinary standards. They relate to your 
gift. Let them have their weight,and do not reject them, 
and cast about for illustration and facts more usual in liter- 
ature. Respect them, for they have their origin in deepest 
nature. What your heart thinks great, is great. The soul's 
^nphasis is always right. 

Over all things that are agreeable to his nature and genius 
the man has the highest right. Everywhere he may take 
what belongs to his spiritual estate, nor can he take any- 
thing else, though all doors were open, nor can all the force 
of men hinder him from taking so much. It is vain to 
attempt to keep a secret from one who has a right to know 
it. It will tell itself. That mood into which a friend can 
bring us is his dominion over us. To the thoughts of that 
state of mind he has a right. All the secrets of that state 
of mind he can compel. This is a law which statesmen use 
in practice. All the terrors of the French Republic, which 
heU Austria in awe. were unable to command her di- 
plomacy. But Napoleon sent to Vienna M. de Narbonne, 
one of the old noblesse, with the morals, manners, and name 
of that interest, saying that it was indispensible to send 
to the old aristocracy of Europe men of the same connexion, 
which, in fact, constitutes a sort of freemasonry. M. 
Narbonne in less than a fortnight penetrated all the secrets 
of the Imperial Cabinet. 

A mutual understanding is ever the firmest chain. Noth- 
ing seems so easy as to speak and to be understood. 
Yet a man may come to find that the strongest of defences 
and of ties, — that he has been understood; and he who has 
received an opinion may come to find it the most incon- 
venient of bonds. 

If a teacher have any opinion which he wishes to conceal, 
his pupils will become as fully indoctrinated into that as into 



138 SPIRITUAL LAWS 

any which he publishes. If you pour water into a vessd 
twisted into coils and angles, it is vain to say, I will pour 
it only into this or that; — ^it will find its own level in all. 
Men feel and act the consequences of your doctrine, without 
being able to show how they follow. Show us an arc of 
the curve, and a good mathematician will find out the whole 
figure. We are always reasoning from the seen to the un- 
seen. Hence the perfect intelligence that subsists between 
wise men of remote ages. A man cannot bury his meanings 
so deep in his book, but time and like-minded men will 
find them. Plato had a secret doctrine, had he? What 
secret can he conceal from the eyes of Bacon? of Mon- 
taigne? Kant? Therefore Aristotle said of his works, 
"they are published and not published." 

No man can learn what he has not preparation for learn- 
ing, however near to his eyes is the object. A chemist may 
tell his most precious secrets to a carpenter, and he shall 
be never the wiser, — ^the secrets he would not utter to a 
chemist for an estate. God screens us evermore from pre- 
mature ideas. Our eyes are holden that we cannot see 
things that stare us in the face, until the hour arrives when 
the mind is ripened, — then we behold them, and the time 
when we saw them not is like a dream. 

Not in nature but in man is all the beauty and worth he 
sees. The world is very empty, and is indebted to this 
gilding, exalting soul for all its pride. "Earth fills her 
lap with splendors" not her ovm. The vale of Tempe, 
Tivoli, and Rome, are earth and water, rocks and sky. 
There are as good earth and water in a thousand places, 
yet how unaffecting! 

People are not the better for the sun and moon, the hor- 
izon and the trees; as it is not observed that the keepers of 
Roman galleries, or the valets of painters, have any ele- 
vation of thought, or that librarians are wiser men than 
others. There are graces in the demeanor of a polished and 
noble person, which are lost upon the eye of a churl. These 
are like the stars whose light has not yet reached us. 

He may see what he maketh. Our dreams are the sequel 
of our waking knowledge. The visions of the night always 



SPIRITUAL LAWS 139 

bear some proportion to the visions of the day. Hideous 
dreams are only exaggerations of the sins of the day. We 
see our own evil affections embodied in bad physiognomies. 
On the Alps, the traveller sometimes sees his own shadow 
magnified to a giant, so that every gesture of his hand is 
terrific. "My children," said an old man to his boys scared 
by a figure in the dark entry, "my children, you will never 
see anything worse than yourselves." As in dreams, so in 
the scarcely less fluid events of the world, every man sees 
himself in colossal, without knowing that it is himself 
that he sees. The good which he sees, compared to the 
evil which he sees, is as his own good to his own evil. Every 
quaUty of his mind is magnified in some one acquaintance, 
and every emotion of his heart in some one. He is like a 
quincunx of trees, which counts five, east, west, north, or 
south; or an initial, medial, and terminal acrostic. And 
why not? He cleaves to one person, and avoids another, 
according to their likeness or unlikeness to himself, truly 
seeking himself in his associates, and moreover in his trade, 
and habits, and gestures, and meats, and drinks; and comes 
at last to be faithfully represented by every view you take 
of his circumstances. 

He may read what he writeth. What can we see or ac- 
quire, but what we are? You have seen a skilful man 
reading Virgil. Well, that author is a thousand books to a 
thousand persons. Take the book into your two hands, and 
read your eyes out, you will never find what I find. If 
any ingenious reader would have a monopoly of the wisdom 
or delight he gets, he is as secure now the book is Englished, 
as if it were imprisoned in the Pelews tongue. It is with a 
good book as it is with good company. Introduce a base 
person among gentlemen: it is all to no purpose: he is not 
their fellow. Every society protects itself. The company 
is perfectly safe, and he is not one of them, though his body 
is in the room. 

What avails it to fight with the eternal laws of mind, 
which adjust the relation of all persons to each other, by 
the mathematical measure of their havings and beings? 
Gertrude is enamored of Guy; how high, how aristocratic 



140 SPIRITUAL LAWS 

how Roman his mien and manners! to live with him were 
life indeed: and no purchase is too great; and heaven and 
earth are moved to that end. Well, Gertrude has Guy: but 
what now avails how high, how aristocratic, how Roman his 
mien and manners, if his heart and aims are in the senate, 
in the theatre, and in the billiard-room, and she has no aims, 
no conversation that can enchant her graceful lord? 

He shall have his own society. We can love nothing but 
nature. The most wonderful talents, the most meritorious 
exertions really avail very little with us; but nearness or 
likeness of nature, — how beautiful is the ease of its victory ! 
Persons approach us famous for their beauty, for their 
accomplishments, worthy of all wonder for their charms and 
gifts: they dedicate their whole skill to the hour and the 
company, with very imperfect result. To be sure, it would 
be very ungrateful in us not to praise them very loudly. 
Then, when all is done, a person of related mind, a brother 
or sister by nature, comes to us so softly and easily, so nearly 
and intimately, as if it were the blood in our proper veins, 
that we feel as if some one was gone, instead of another 
having come: we are utterly reheved and refreshed: it is a 
sort of joyful solitude. We foolishly think, in our days of 
sin, that we must court friends by compliance to the customs 
of society, to its dress, its breeding and its estimates. But 
later, if we are so happy, we learn that only that soul can 
be my friend, which I encounter on the line of my own 
march, that soul to which I do not decline, and which does 
not decline to me, but, native of the same celestial lat- 
itude, repeats in its own all my experience. The scholar and 
the prophet forget themselves, and ape the customs and 
costumes of the man of the world, to deserve the smile 
of beauty. He is a fool, and follows some giddy girl, and 
not with religious ennobling passion a woman with all that 
is serene, oracular, and beautiful in her soul. Let him be 
great, and love shall follow him. Nothing is more deeply 
punished than the neglect of the affinities by which alone 
society should be formed, and the insane levity of choosing 
associates by other's eyes. 

He may set his own rate. It is an universal maxiin. 



SPIRITUAL LAWS 141 

worthy of all acceptation, that a man may have that allow- 
ance he takes. Take the place and attitude to which you see 
your unquestionable right, and all men acquiesce. The world 
must be just. It always leaves every man with profound 
unconcern to set his own rate. Hero or driveller, it meddles 
not in the matter. It will certainly accept your own 
measure of your doing and being, whether you sneak about 
and deny your own name, or whether you see your work 
produced to the concave sphere of the heavens, one with the 
revolution of the stars. 

The same reahty pervades all teaching. The man may 
teach by doing, and not otherwise. If he can communicate 
himself, he can teach, but not by words. He teaches who 
gives, and he learns who receives. There is no teaching 
until the pupil is brought into the same state or principle 
in which you are; a transfusion takes place: he is you, and 
you are he; then is a teaching, and by no unfriendly chance 
or bad company can he ever quite lose the benefit. But 
your propositions run out of one ear as they ran in at the 
other. We see it advertised that Mr. Grand will deliver 
an oration on the fourth of July, and Mr. Hand before the 
Mechanics' Association, and we do not go thither, because 
we know that these gentlemen will not communicate theit 
own character and being to the audience. If we had 
reason to expect such a communication, we should go 
through all inconvenience and opposition. The sick would 
be carried in litters. But a public oration is an escapade, a 
non-committal, an apology, a gag, and not a communication, 
not a speech, not a man. 

A like Nemesis presides over all intellectual works. We 
have yet to learn that the thing uttered in words is not 
therefore affirmed. It must affirm itself, or no forms of 
grammar and no plausibility can give it evidence, and 
no array of arguments. The sentence must also contain 
its own apology for being spoken. 

The effect of any writing on. the public mind is mathemat- 
ically measurable by its depth of thought. How much water 
does it draw? If it awaken you to think; if it lift you from 
your feet with the great voice of eloquence; then the effect 
is to be wide, slow, permanent, over the minds of men; if 



142 SPIRITUAL LAWS 

the pages instruct you not, they will die like flies in the hour. 
The way to speak and write what shall not go out of fashion, 
is to speak and write sincerely. The argument which has 
not power to reach my own practice, I may well doubt will 
fail to reach yours. But take Sidney's maxim: "Look in 
thy heart, and write." He that writes to himself writes to 
an eternal public. That statement only is fit to be made 
pubhc which you have come at in attempting to satisfy 
your own curiosity. The writer who takes his subject from 
his ear and not from his heart, should know that he has lost 
as much as he seems to have gained; and when the empty 
book has gathered all its praise, and half the people say — 
"What poetry! what genius!" it still needs fuel to make fire. 
That only profits which is profitable. Life alone can im- 
part life; and though we should burst, we can only be valued 
as we make ourselves valuable. There is no luck in hterary 
reputation. They who make up the final verdict upon every 
book, are not the partial and noisy readers of the hour when 
it appears; but a court as of angels, a public not to be 
bribed, not to be entreated, and not to be overawed, decides 
upon every man's title to fame. Only those books come 
down which deserve to last. All the gilt edges and vellum 
and morocco, all the presentation-copies to all the libraries, 
will not preserve a book in circulation beyond its intrinsic 
date. It must go with all Walpole's Royal and Noble 
Authors to its fate. Blackmore, Kotzebue, or Pollok, may 
endure for a night, but Moses and Homer stand forever. 
There are not in the world at any one time more than a 
dozen persons who read and understand Plato: — ^never 
enough to pay for an edition of his works; yet to every 
generation these come duly down, for the sake of those few 
persons, as if God brought them in his hand. "No book," 
said Bentley, "was ever written down by any but itself." 
The permanence of all books is fixed by no effort friendly 
or hostile, but by their own specific gravity, or the intrinsic 
importance of their contents to the constant mind of man. 
"Do not trouble yourself too much about the light on your 
statue," said Michael Angelo to the young sculptor; "the 
light of the public square will test its value." 



SPIRITUAL LAWS 143 

In like manner the effect of every action is measured by 
the depth of the sentiment from which it proceeds. The 
great man knew not that he was great. It took a century 
or two for that fact to appear. What he did, he did because 
he must; he used no election; it was the most natural thing 
in the world, and grew out of the circumstances of the mo- 
ment. But now, every thing he did, even to the lifting of 
his finger, or the eating of bread, looks large, all-related, and 
is called an institution. 

These are the demonstrations, in a few particulars, of 
the genius of nature: they show the direction of the stream. 
But the stream is blood; every drop is alive. Truth has 
not single victories; all things are its organs, not only dust 
and stones, but errors and lies. The laws of disease, physi- 
cians say, are as beautiful as the laws of health. Our phil- 
osophy is affirmative, and readily accepts the testimony of 
negative facts, as every shadow points to the sun. By a 
divine necessity, every fact in nature is constrained to ofFei 
its testimony. 

Human character does evermore publish itself. It will 
not be concealed. It hates darkness, — ^it rushes into light. 
The most fugitive deed and word, the mere air of doing a 
thing, the intimated purpose, expresses character. If you 
act, you show character; if you sit still, you show it; if 
you deep, you show it. You think because you have spoken 
nothing, when others spoke, and have given no opinion on 
the times, on the church, on slavery, on college, on parties 
and persons, that your verdict is still expected with curios- 
ity as a reserved wisdom. Far otherwise; your silence an- 
swers very loud. You have no oracle to utter, and your 
fellow men have learned that you cannot help them; for 
oracles speak. Doth not wisdom cry, and imderstanding 
put forth her voice? 

Dreadful limits are set in nature to the powers of dis- 
simulation. Truth tjrrannizes over the unwilling members 
of the body. Faces never lie, it is said. No man need be 
deceived, who will study the changes of expression. When 
a man speaks the truth in the spirit of truth, his eye is as 
clear as the heavens. When he has base ends, and speaks 



144 SPIRITUAL LAWS 

falsely, the eye is muddy and sometimes asquint. 

I have heard an experienced counsellor say, that he feared 
never the effect upon the jury of a lawyer who does not 
believe in his heart that his client ought to have a verdict. 
If he does not believe it, his unbelief will appear to the jury, 
despite all his protestations, and will become their un- 
belief. This is that law whereby a work of art, of what- 
ever kind, sets us in the same state of mind wherein the 
artist was when he made it. That which we do not believe, 
we cannot adequately say, though we may repeat the words 
pevef so often. It was this conviction which Swedenborg 
tr'^^fese'd^'when he described a group of persons in the spirit- 
*^al world endeavoring in vain to articulate a proposition 
which they did not believe: but they could not, though they 
twisted and folded their lips even to indignation. 

A man passes for that he is worth. Very idle is all 
curiosity concerning other people's estimate of us, and 
idle is all fear of remaining unknown. If a man know that 
he can do anjrthing, — ^that he can do it better than any 
one else, — he has a pledge of the acknowledgment of that 
fact by all persons. The world is full of judgment-days, 
and into every assembly that a man enters, in every action 
he attempts he is gauged and stamped. In every troop 
of boys that whoop and run in each yard and square, a new- 
comer is as well and accurately weighed in the balance, in 
the course of a few days, and stamped with his right number, 
as if he had undergone a formal trial of his strength, speed, 
and temper. A stranger comes from a distant school, with 
better dress, with trinkets in his pockets, with airs, and pre- 
tension: an old boy sniffs thereat, and says to himself, 
"It's of no use: we shall find him out to-morrow." "What 
hath he done?" is the divine question which searches men, 
and transpierces every false reputation. A fop may sit in 
any chair of the world, nor be distinguished for his hour from 
Homer and Washington; but there can never be any doubt 
concerning the respective ability of human beings, when 
we seek the truth. Pretension may sit still, but cannot act. 
Pretension never feigned an act of real greatness. Pre- 
tension never wrote an Iliad, nor drove back Xerxes, nor 



SPIRITUAL LAWS 145 

christiamzed the world, nor abolished slavery. 

Always as much virtue as there is, so much appears; as 
much goodness as there is, so much reverence it commands. 
All the devils respect virtue. The high, the generous, the 
self-devoted sect will always instruct and conmiand man- 
kind. Never a sincere word was utterly lost. Never a 
magnanimity fell to the ground. Always the heart of man 
greets and accepts it unexpectedly. A man passes for that 
he is worth. What he is, engraves itself on his face, on his 
form, on his fortunes, in letters of light, which all men may 
read but himself. Concealment avails him nothing; \:}»^*^' 
ing, nothing. There is confession in the glances of our eye&, 
in our smiles, in salutations, and the grasp of hands. His 
sin bedaubs him, mars all his good impression. Men know 
not why they do not trust him; but they do not trust him. 
His vice glasses his eye, demeans his cheek, pinches the nose, 
sets the mark of the beast on the back of the head/apd 
writes, fool! fool! on the forehead of a king. 

If you would not be known to do anjrthing, never do it. 
A man may play the fool in the drifts of a desert, but 
every grain of sand shall seem to see. He may be a solitary 
eater, but he cannot keep his foolish counsel. A broken 
complexion, a swinish look, ungenerous acts, and the want 
of due knowledge, — all blab. Can a cook, a Chiffinch, 
an lachimo, be mistaken for Zeno or Paul? Confucius ex- 
claimed, "How can a man be concealed! How can a man 
be concealed!" 

On the other hand, the hero fears not, that if he with- 
hold the avowal of a just and brave act, it will go unwit- 
nessed and unloved. One knows it, — ^himself, — ^and is 
pledged by it to sweetness of peace, and to nobleness of aim, 
which will prove in the end a better proclamation of it than 
the relating of the incident. Virtue is the adherence in 
action to the nature of things, and the nature of things 
makes it prevalent. It consists in a perpetual substitu- 
tion of being for seeming, a^d with sublime propriety God 
is described as saying, I AM. 

The lesson which all these observations convey, is. Be, 
and not seem. Let us acquiesce. Let us take our bloated 



« 

:•;'■• : 



146 SPIRITUAL LAWS 

nothingness out of the path of the divine circuits. Let ua 
unlearn our wisdom of the world. Let us lie low in the 
Lord's power, and learn that truth alone makes rich and 
great. 

If you visit your friend, why need you apologise for not 
having visited him, and waste his time and deface your own 
act? Visit him now. Let him feel that the hi^est love 
has come to see him, in thee its lowest organ. Or why need 
you torment yourself and friend by secret self-reproaches 
that you have not assisted him or complimented him with 
gifts and salutations heretofore? Be a gift and a bene- 
diction. Shine with real light, and not with the borrowed 
reflections of gifts. Common men are apologies for men; 
they bow the head, they excuse themselves with prolix 
reasons, they accumulate appearances, because the sub- 
stance is not. 

We are full of these superstitions of sense, the worship of 
magnitude. God loveth not size: whale and minnow are of 
like dimension. But we call the poet inactive, because he 
is not a president, a merchant, or a porter. We adore an 
institution, and do not see that it is founded on a thought 
which we have. But real action is in silent moments. The 
epochs of our life are not in the visible facts of our choice 
of a calling, our marriage, our acquisition of an office, and 
the like; but in a silent thought by the way-side as we walk; 
in a thought which revises our entire manner of life, and 
says, "Thus hast thou done, but it were better thus." And 
all our after years, like menials, do serve and wait on this, 
and according to their ability do execute its will. This 
revisal or correction is a constant force, which, as a tendency, 
reaches through our lifetime. The object of the man, the 
aim of these moments, is to make daylight shine through 
him, to suflFer the law to traverse his whole being without 
obstruction, so that, on what point soever of his doing your 
eye falls, it shall report truly of his character, whether it 
be his diet, his house, his religious forms, his' society, his 
mirth, his vote, his opposition. Now he is not homogeneous, 
but heterogeneous, and the ray does not traverse; there 
are no thorai2;b lights; but the eye of the beholder is 



SPIRITUAL LAWS 147 

puzzled, detecting many unlike tendencies, and a life not 
yet at one. 

Why should we make it a point with our false modesty 
to disparage that man we are, and that form of being assigned 
to us? A good man is contented. I love and honor 
Epaminondas, but I do not wish to be Epaminondas. I 
hold it more just to love the world of this hour than the 
world of his hour. Nor can you, if I am true, excite me to 
the least uneasiness by saying, "he acted, and thou sittest 
still." I see action to be good, when the need is, and sitting 
still to be also good. Epaminondas, if he was the man I 
take him for, would have sat still with joy and peace, if his 
lot had been mine. Heaven is large, and affords space for 
all modes of love and fortitude. Why should we be busy- 
bodies and superserviceable? Action and inaction are 
alike to the true. One piece of the tree is cut for a weather- 
cock, and one for the sleeper of a bridge; the virtue of the 
wood is apparent in both. 

I desire not to disgrace the soul. The fact that I am 
here, certainly shows me that the soul had need of an organ 
here. Shall I not assume the post? Shall I skulk and 
dodge and duck with my unseasonable apologies and 
vain modesty, and imagine my being here impertinent? 
less pertinent than Epaminondas or Homer being there? 
and that the soul did not know its own needs? Besides, 
without any reasoning on the matter, I have no discontent. 
The good soul nourishes me alway, unlocks new magazines 
of power and enjoyment to me every day. I will not 
meanly decline the immensity of good, because I have heard 
that it has come to others in another shape. 

Besides, why should we be cowed by the name of Action? 
Tis a trick of the senses, — no more. We know that the 
ancestor of every action is a thought. The poor mind does 
not seem to itself to be any thing, unless it have an outside 
badge, — some Gentoo diet, or Quaker coat, or Calvinistic 
prayer-meeting, or philanthropic society, or a great dona- 
tion, or a high office, or, any how, some wild contrasting 
action to testifj'^ that it is somewhat. The rich mind lies 
in the sun and sleeps, and 19 Nature. Tq think is to act. 



148 SPIRITUAL LAWS 

Let us, if we must have great actions, make our own so. 
All action is of an indefinite elasticity, and the least admits of 
being inflated with the celestial air until it eclipses the sun 
and moon. Let us seek one peace by fidelity. Let me do 
my duties. Why need I go gadding into the scenes and phi- 
losophy of Greek and Italian history, before I have washed 
my own face, or justified myself to my own benefactors? 
How dare I read Washington's campaigns, when I have 
not answered the letters of my own correspondents? Is 
not that a just objection to much of our reading? It is 
a pusillanimous desertion of our work to gaze after our 
neighbors. It is peeping. Byron says of Jack Bunting, 

'^e knew not what to say, and so he swore." 

I may say it of our preposterous use of books: "He knew 
not what to do, and so he read" I can think of nothing 
to fill my time with, and so, without any constraint, I find 
the fife of Brant. It is a very extravagant compliment to 
pay to Brant, or to General Schuyler, or to General Wash- 
ington. My time should be as good as their time: my 
world, my facts) all my net of relations as good as theirs 
or either of theirs. Rather let me do my work so well that 
other idlers, if they choose, may compare my texture with 
the texture of these, and find it identical with the best. 

This over-estimate of the possibilities of Paul and Pericles, 
this under-estimate of our own, comes from a neglect of the 
fact of an identical nature. Bonaparte knew but one 
Merit, and rewarded in one and the same way the good 
soldier, the good astronomer, the good poet, the good 
player. Thus he signified his sense of a great fact. The 
poet uses the names of Caesar, of Tamerlane, of Bonduca, of 
Belisarius; the painter uses the conventional story of the 
Virgin Mary, of Paul, of Peter. He does not, therefore, 
defer to the nature of these accidental men, of these stock 
heroes. If the poet writes a true drama, then he is Caesar, 
and not the player of Caesar; then the self -same strain of 
thought, emotion as pure, wit as subtle, motions as swift, 
mounting, extravagant, and a heart as great, self-sufficing, 
dauntless, which on the waves of its love and hope can up- 



SPIRITUAL LAWS 149 

lift all that is reckoned solid and precious in the world, 
palaces, gardens, money, navies, kingdoms, — ^marking its 
own incomparable worth by the slight it casts on these gauds 
of men, — these all are his, and by the power of these he 
rouses the nations. But the great names cannot stead him, 
if he have not life himself. Let a man beUeve in God, and 
not in names and places and persons. Let the great soul 
incarnated in some woman's form, poor and sad and single, 
in some Dolly or Joan, go out to service, and sweep chambers 
and scour floors, and its effulgent day-beams cannot be 
muffled or hid, but to sweep and scour will instantly appear 
supreme and beautiful actions, the top and radiance of 
human life, and all people will get mops and brooms; 
imtil, lo, suddenly the great soul has enshrined itself in 
some other form, and done some other deed, and that is now 
the flower and head of all hving nature. 

We are the photometers, we the irritable goldleaf and 
tinfoil that measure the accumulations of the subtle element. 
We know the authentic effects of the true fire through every 
one Qf its million disguises. 



vn 

SELF-RELIANCE 

Ne te qiiffisiveris extra. 

"Man is his own star; and the soul that can 

Render an honest and a perfect man, 

Commands all light, all influence, all fate. 

Nothing to him falls early or too late. 

Our acts our angels are, or good or ill, 

Our fatal shadows that walk by us still." 
Epilogue to Beaumont and Fletcher'e Honest Man*8 Fortune. 

Cast the bantling on the rocks, 
Suckle him with the she-wolf *s teat: 
Wintered with the hawk and fox, 
Power and speed be hands and feet. 

I READ the other day some Yfiiaes written by an eminent 
painter which were original and not conYentional. Always 
the soul hears an admonition in such lines, let the subject 
be what it may. The sentiment they instil is of more value 

I than any thought they may contain. To beUeve your own 
thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private 
heart, is true for all men, — that is genius. Speak your latent 
conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for always 
the inmost becomes the outmost, — and our first thought is 
rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment. 
Familiar as the voice of the mind is to each, the highest merit 
we ascribe to Moses, Plato, and Milton, is that they set at 
naught books and traditions, and spoke not what men but 
what they thous^ht. A man should learn to detect and watch 
that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, 
more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. 
Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is 
\ his. In every work of genius we recognize our own re- 
^ jected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alien- 

150 



SELF-RELIANCE 161 

ated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting 
lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spon- 
taneous impression with good-humored inflexibility then 
most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. 
Else, to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense 
precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and 
we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from 
another. 

There is a time in every man's education when he arrives 
at the conviction that epvy is jg](mraa«e; that imitation is 
suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as 
his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, 
no kernel of nourishing com can come to him but through 
his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to 
him to till, f The power which resides in him is new in 
nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, 
nor does he know until he has tried.| Not for- nothing one 
face, one character, one fact makes much impression on him, 
and another none. It is not without pre-established har- 
mony, this sculpture in the memory. The eye was placed 
. where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that par- 
ticular ray. Bravely let him speak the utmost syllable of 
his confession. We but half express ourselves, and are 
ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents. It 
may be safely trusted as proportionate and of good issues, 
so it be faithfully imparted, but God will not have his 
work made manifest by cowards. It needs a divine man to 
exhibit anything divine. A man is relieved and gay when 
he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but 
what he has said or done otherwise, shall give him no peace. 
It is a deliverance which does not deliver. In the attempt 
his genius deserts him; no muse befriends; no invention, 
no hope. 

Jf : every heart vib rates to that iron s i 
Accept the pla ^_jbe oivine Proyjdt!ili;y hUlj ffttind for you: 
ttg^socifitYjofypur contemporaries. tISc'onnection "of events. 
Irea tmen have always done so^ and confided themselves 
chiTdlike to~the "l];enius of their a^e, 'betraying' their T5cr- 
CeptioiTthat the Eternal was stirring at their heart, working 



162 SELF-RELIANCE 

through their hands, predominating in all their being. And 
we are now men, and must accept in the highest mind the 
same transcendent destiny; and not pinched in a corner, not 
cowards fleeing before a revolution, but redeemers and 
benefactors, pious aspirants to be noble clay plastic imder 
the Almighty effort, let us advance and advance on Chaos 
and the Dark. 

What pretty oracles nature yields us on this text in the 
face and behavior of children, babes and even brutes! That 
divided and rebel mind, that distrust of a sentiment because 
our arithmetic has computed the strength and means op- 
posed to our purpose, these have not. Their mind being 
whole, their eye is yet unconquered; and when we look 
in their faces, we are disconcerted. Infancy conforms to 
nobody: all conform to it, so that one babe commonly makes 
I four or five out of the adults who prattle and play to it. 
So God has armed youth and puberty and manhood no 
less with its own piquancy and charm, and made it enviable 
and gracious, and its claims not to be put by, if it will stand 
by itself. Do not think the youth has no force because he 
cannot speak to you and me. Hark! in the next room, who 
spoke so clear and emphatic? Good Heaven! it is he! it 
is that very lump of bashfulness and phlegm which for weeks 
has done nothing but eat when you were by, that now rolls 
out these words like bell-strokes. It seems he knows how 
to speak to his contemporaries. Bashful or bold, then, he 
will know how to make us seniors very unnecessary. 

The nonchalance of boys who are sure of a dinner, and 
would disdain as much as a lord to do or say aught to con- 
ciliate one, is the healthy attitude of human nature. How 
is a boy the master of society! Independent, irresponsible, 
looking out from his corner on such people and facts as pass 
by, he tries and sentences them on their merits, in the swift 
summary way of boys, as good, bad, interesting, silly, elo- 
quent, troublesome. He cumbers himself never about con- 
sequences, about interests; he gives an independent, genuine 
verdict. You must court him; he does not court you. But 
the man is, as it were, clapped into jail by his consciousness. 
As soon as he has once acted or spoken with eclat, he is a 



^t« 



SELF-RELIANCE 163 

committed person, watched by the sympathy or the hatred 
of hundreds, whose affections must now enter into his 
account. There is no Lethe for this. Ah, that he could 
pass again into his neutral, godlike independence! Who can 
thus lose all pledge, and having observed, observe again 
from the same unaffected, imbiased, unbribable, unaffrighted 
innocence, must always be formidable, must always engage 
the poet's and the man's regards. Of such an immortal youth 
the force would be felt. He would utter opinions on all 
passing affairs, which being seen to be not private, but 
necessary, would sink like darts into the ear of men, and 
put them in fear. 

These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they 
grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world. So- 
ciety everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of 
every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock com- 
pany, in which the members agree, for the better securing 
of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty 
^ culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is 

rmity. Self-rehance is its aversion. It loves not real- 

nd creators, but names and customs. 

oso would be a man must be a nonconformist. He 
would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by 
the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. 
Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of our own mind. 
Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage 
of the world. I remember an answer which, when quite 
young, I was prompted to make to a valued adviser who 
was wont to importune me with the dear old doctrines of 
the church. On my saying, What have I to do with the 
sacredness of traditions, if I live wholly from within? my 
friend suggested, — "But these impulses may be from below, 
not from above." I replied, "They do not seem to me to be 
such; but if I am the devil's child, I will live then from the 
devil." No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature". 
Good and bad are but names, very readily transferable to 
that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution, 
the only wrong is what is against it. A man is to carry 
bimgelf in the presence of all opposition as if every thing 




154 SELF-RELIANCE 

were titular and ephemeral but he. I am ashamed to think 
how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large 
societies and dead institutions. Every decent and well- 
spoken individual affects and sways me more than is right. 
I ought to go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth 
in all ways. If malice and vanity wear the coat of phi- 
lanthropy, shall that pass? If an angry bigot assumes this 
bountiful cause of Abolition, and comes to me with his last 
news of Barbadoes, why should I not say to him, "Go, love 
thy infant; love thy wood-chopper: be good-natured and 
modest; have that grace; and never varnish your hard; 
uncharitable ambition with this incredible tenderness for 
black folk a thousand miles off. Thy love afar is spite at 
home." Rough and graceless would be such greeting, but 
truth is handsomer than the affectation of love. Your 
goodness must have i^me edge to it — else it is none. /The 
doctrine of hatred must be preached, as the counteraction of 
the doctrine of love when that pbles and whines. I shun 
father and mother and wife and swrother, when my ge 
calls me. I would write on the Bntels of the door 
Whim. Y ^op® it is somewhat betw than whim at 
but we cannot spend the day in explanation. Expect me 
to show cause why I seek or why I excluae company. Th 
again, do not tell me, as a good man did tto-day, of my obli- 
gation to put all poor men in good situations. Are they my 
poor? I tell thee, thou foolish philanthropist that I grudge 
the dollar, the dime, the cent I give to such men as do not 
belong to me, and to whom I do not belong. There is a 
class of persons to whom by all spiritual affinity I am 
bought and sold; for them I will go to prison, if need be; 
but your miscellaneous popular charities; the education at 
college of fools; the building of meeting-houses to the vain 
end to which many now stand; alms to sots; and the thous- 
andfold Relief Societies; — ^though I confess with shame I 
sometimes succumb and give the dollar, it is a wicked dollar 
which by and by I shall have the manhood to withhold. 

Virtues are, in the popular estimate, rather the exception 
than the rule. There is the man and his virtues. Men do 
what is called a good action, as some piece of courage or 




SELF-RELIANCE 155 

charity, much as they would pay a fine in expiation of daily 
non-appearance on parade. Their works are done as an 
apology or extenuation of their living in the world, — ^as 
invalids and the insane pay a high board. Their virtues are 
penances. I do not wish to expiate, but to live. My hfe 
is not an apology, but a hfe. It is for itself, and not for a 
spectacle. I much prefer that it should be of a lower strain, 
so it be genuine and equal, than that it should be glittering 
and unsteady. I wish it to be sound and sweet, and not to 
need diet and bleeding. My life should be imique; it should 
be an alms, a battle, a conquest, a medicine. I ask primary 
evidence that you are a man, and refuse this appeal from 
the man to his actions. I know that for myself it makes 
no difference whether I do or forbear those actions which 
are reckoned excellent. I cannot consent to pay for a priv- 
ilege where I have intrinsic right. Few and mean as my 
gifts may be, I actually am, and do not need for my own 

urance or the assurance of my fellows any secondary 
ony. 

at I must do, is all that concerns me; not what the 
e think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in 

fellectual Hfe, may serve for the whole distinction between 
greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will 
always find those who think they know what is your duty 
better than you know it. It is easy i n the world to live 
after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to hve after 
our own; but the great man isTie who in the midst of the 
crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of soli- 1 
tude. ' • 

The objection to conforming to usages that have become 
dead to you, is, that it scatters your force. It loses your 
time, and blurs the impres sion of your character. If 
you maintain a dead church, contribute to a dead Bible- 
Society, or vote with a great party either for the Govern- 
ment or against it, spread your table like base house- 
keepers, — under all these screens, I have difficulty to de- 
tect the precise man you are. And, of course, so much fprce 
is withdrawn from your proper life. But do your thing, 
and I shall know you. Do your work, and you shall rein- 






156 SELF-RELIANCE 

force yourself. A man must consider what a blind-man's- 
buff is this game of conformity. If I know your sect, I 
anticipate your argument. I hear a preacher announce for 
his text and topic the expediency of one of the institutions 
of his church. Do I not know beforehand that not possibly 
can he say a new and spontaneous word? Do I not know 
that with all this ostentation of examining the grounds of 
the institution, he will do no such thing? Do I not know 
that he is pledged to himself not to look but at one side; 
the permitted side, not as a man, but as a parish minister? 
He is a retained attorney, and these airs of the bench are 
the emptiest affectation. Well, most men have bound their 
eyes with one or another handkerchief, and attached them- 
selves to some one of these communities of opinion. This 
conformity makes them not false in a few particulars, 
authors of a few lies, but false in all particulars. Their every 
truth is not quite true. Their two is not the real two, 
their four not the real four: so that every word they s 
J chagrins us, and we know not where to begin to set 
'right. Meantime nature is not slow to equip us i 
prison-uniform of the party to which we adhere. We 
to wear one cut of face and figure, and acquire by degn 
the gentlest asinine expression. There is a mortifying ex- 
perience in particular which does not fail to wreak itself 
also in the general history; I mean, "the foohsh face of 
praise," the forced smile which we put on in company where 
we do not feel at ease in answer to conversation which does 
not interest us. The muscles, not spontaneously moved, but 
moved by a low usurping willfulness, grow tight about the 
outline of the face, and make the most disagreeable sen- 
sation, — a sensation of rebuke and warning which no brave 
young man will suffer twice. 

I,/ For nonconformity the world whips you with its dis- 
pleasure. And therefore a man must know how to estimate 
a sour face. The bystanders look askance on him in the 
public street or in the friend's parlor. If this aversation 
had, its origin in contempt and resistance like his own, he 
might well go home with a sad countenance; but the sour 
faces of the multitude, like their sweet faces, have: no deep 




SELF-RELIANCE 167 

cause, — disguise no god, but are put on and off as the wind 
blows and a newspaper directs. Yet is the discontent of the 
multitude more formidable than that of the senate and the 
college. It is easy enough for a firm man who knows the 
world to brook the rage of the cultivated classes. Their 
rage is decorous and prudent; for they are timid, as being 
very vulnerable themselves. But when to their feminine 
rage the indignation of the people is added, when the ignor- 
ant and the poor are aroused, when the unintelligent brute 
force that Ues at the bottom of society is made to growl 
and mow, it needs the habit of magnanimity and religion 
to treat it godlike as a trifle of no concernment. 

The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our con- 
sistency; a reverence for our past act or word, because the 
eyes of others have no other data for computing our orbit 
than our past acts, and we are loath to disappoint them. 

But why should you keep your head over your shoulder? 
Why drag about this monstrous corpse of your memory, 
lest you contradict somewhat you have stated in this or 
/that public place? Suppose you should contradict your- 
self; what then? It seems to be a rule of wisdom never 
to rely on your memory alone, scarcely even in acts of pure 
memory, but bring the past for judgment into the thous- 
and-eyed present, and live ever in a new day. Trust your 
emotion. In your metaphysics you have denied person- 
ality to the Deity: yet when the devout motions of the soul 
come, yield to them heart and life, though they should clothe 
God with shape and color. Leave your theory, as Joseph 
his coat in the hand of the harlot, and flee. 

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, 
adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. 
With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. 
He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the 
wall. Out upon your guarded lips! Sew them up with 
packthread, do. Els e, if y ou would be a man, speak what 
you think to-day inTworas as hard lis cannon-balls, and to- 
morrow speak what to-inorrow thinks in hard words again, 
though it contradict every thing you said to-day. Ah, then, 
exclaim the aged ladies, ypii i^h^ll b^ sure to be misunder- 



/ 



158 SELF-RELIANCE 

stood. Misunderstood! It is a right fool's word. Is it 
so bad then to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was mis- 
understood, and Socrates, and Jesus^ and Luther, and Coper- 
nicus, and Gahleo, and Newton, and every pure and wise 
spirit that ever took flesh. Tobe greatj s to be misunder- 
stood. 

I suppose no man can violate his nature. All the 
sallies of his will are rounded in by the law of his being, 
as the inequalities of Andes and Himmaleh are insigni- 
ficant in the curve of the sphere. Nor does it matter how 
you gauge and try him. A character is like an acrostic 
or Alexandrian stanza; — read it forward, backward, or 
across, it still spells the same thing. In this pleasing con- 
trite wood-life which God allows me, let me record day by 
day my honest thought, without prospect or retrospect, 
and I cannot doubt it will be foimd symmetrical, though I 
mean it not, and see it not. My book should smell of pines 
and resound with the hum of insects. The swallow over 
my window should inter-weave that thread or straw he 
carries in his bill into my web also. We pass for what we 
are. Character teaches above our wills. Men imagine that 
they communicate their virtue or vice only by overt actions, 
and do not see that virtue or vice emit a breath every mo- 
ment. 

Fear never but you shall be consistent in whatever variety 
of actions, so they be each honest and natural in their hour. 
For of one will the actions will be harmonious, however unlike 
they seem. These varieties are lost sight of when seen at a 
little distance, at a little height of thought. One tendency 
unites them all. The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag 
line of a hundred tacks. This is only microscopic crit- 
icism. See the line from a sufficient distance, and it 
straightens itself to the average tendency. Your genuine 
action will explain itself, and will explain your other gen- 
uine actions. Your conformity explains nothing. Act singly, 
and what you have already done singly will justify you 
now.* Greatness always appeals to the future. If I can 
be great enough now to do right and scorn eyes, I must 
have done so much right l^^fpre a£| to defend me now. Be^ 



SELF-RELIANCE 159 

it how it will, do right now. Always scorn appearances, 
and you always may. The force of character is cumulative. 
All the foregone days of "virtue work their health into this. 
What makes the majesty of the heroes of the senate and the 
field, which so fills the imagination? The consciousness of 
a train of great days and victories behind. There they all 
stan^. and shed a united light on the advancing actor. He 
is attended as by a visible escort of angels to every man's 
eye. That is it which throws thunder into Chatham's 
voice, and dignity into Washington's port, and America into 
Adam's eye. Honor is venerable to us, because it is no 
ephemeris. It is always ancient virtue. We worship it 
to-day, because it is not of to-day. We love it and pay it 
homage, because it is not a trap for our love and homage, 
but is self-dependent, self -derived, and therefore of an old 
immaculate pedigree, even if shown in a young person. 

I hope in these days we have heard the laat of conformity 
and consistency. Let the words be gazetted and ridiculous 
henceforward. Instead of the gong for dinner, let us hear 
a whistle from the Spartan fife. Let us bow and apologize 
never more. A great man is coming to eat at my house. I 
do not wish to please him; I wish that he should wish to 
please me. I will stand here for humanity; and though I 
would make it kind, I would make it true. Let us affront 
and reprimand the smooth mediocrity and squalid con- 
tentment of the times, and hurl in the face of custom, and 
trade, and office, the fact which is the upshot of all history, 
that there is a great responsible Thinker and Actor moving 
wherever moves a man; that a true man belongs to no other 
time or place, but is the center of things. Where he is, 
there is nature. He measures you, and all men, and all 
events. You are constrained to accept his standard. Ordi- 
narily everybody in society reminds us of somewhat else 
or of some other person. Character, reality, reminds you of 
nothing else. It takes place of the whole creation. The 
man must be so much that he must make all circumstances 
indifferent, — put all means into the shade. This all great 
men are and do. Every true man is a cause, a country, and 
an Age; requires infinite spaces and numbers and time fully 



160 SELF-RELIANCE 

to accomplish his thought; — and posterity seem to follow 
his steps as a procession. A man Caesar is bom, and for 
ag^ after we have a Roman Empire. Christ is bom, and 
millions of minds so grow and cleave to his genius, that he 
is confounded with virtue and the possible of man. An 
institution is the lengthened shadow of one man; as, the 
Reformation, of Luther; Quakerism, of Fox; Methodism, of 
Wesley; Abohtion, of Clarkson. Scipio, Milton called "the 
height of Rome"; and all history resolves itself very easily 
into the biography of a few stout and earnest persons. 

Let a man, then, know his worth, and keep things under 
his feet. Let him not peep or steal, or skulk up and down 
with the air of a charity-boy, a bastard, or an interloper, 
in the world which exists for him. But the man in the 
street, finding no worth in himself which corresponds to the 
force which built a tower or sculptured a marble god, feels 
poor when he looks on these. To him a palace, a statue, or 
a costly book have an alien and forbidding air, much like 
a gay equipage, and seem to say like that, "Who are you, 
sir?" Yet they are all his, suitors for his notice, petitioners 
to his faculties that they will come out and take possession. 
The picture waits for my verdict : it is not to command me, 
but I am to settle its claims to praise. That popular fable 
of the sot who was picked up dead drunk in the street, 
carried to the duke's house, washed and dressed and laid in 
the duke's bed, and, on his waking, treated with all obsequi- 
ous ceremony like the duke, and assured that he had been 
insane, — owes its popularity to the fact, that it symbol- 
izes so well the state of man, who is in the world a sort of 
sot, but now and then wakes up, exercises his reason, and 
finds himself a true prince. 

Our reading is mendicant and sycophantic. In history, 
our imagination makes fools of us, plays us false. King- 
dom and lordship, power and estate, are a gaudier vocab- 
ulary than private John and Edward in a small house and 
common day's work: but the things of life are the same to 
both; the sum-total of both is the same. Why all this 
deference to Alfred, and Scanderbeg, and Gustavus? 
Suppose they were virtuous: did they wear out virtue? 



SELF-RELIANCE 161 

As great a stake depends on your private act to-day, as 
followed their public and renowned steps. When private 
men shall act with vast views, the lustre will be transferred 
from the actions of kings to those of gentlemen. 

The worid has indeed been instructed by its kings, who 
have so magnetised the eyes of nations. It has been taught 
by this colossal sjrmbol the mutual reverence that is due 
from man to man. The joyful loyalty with which men 
have everywhere suffered the king, the noble, or the great 
proprietor to walk among them by a law of his own; make 
his own scale of men and things, and reverse theirs; pay 
for benefits not with money but with honor, and represent 
the Law in his person, — ^was the hieroglyphic by which they 
obscurely signified their consciousness of their own right 
and comeliness, the right of every man. 

The magnetism which all original action exerts is explained 
when we inquire the reason of self-trust. Who is the 
Trustee? What is the aboriginal Self on which a universal 
reliance may be grounded? What is the nature and power 
of that science-baffling star, without parallax, without cal- 
culable elements, which shoots a ray of beauty even into 
trivial and impure actions, if the least mark of independ- 
ence appear? The inquiry leads us to that source, at once 
the essence of genius, the essence of virtue, and the essence 
of life, which we call Spontaneity or Instinct. We denote 
this primary wisdom as Intuition, whilst all later teach- 
ings are tuitions. In that de en force, the last fact, behind 
which analysis cannot go, all things find their common 
origin. For the sense of being, which in calm hours rises, 
we know not how, in the soul, is not diverse from things, 
from space, from light, from time, from man, but one with 
them, and proceedeth obviously from the same source whence 
their life and being also proceedeth. We first share the life 
by which things exist, and afterwards see them as appear- 
ances in nature, and forget that we have shared their cause. 
Here is the fountain of action and the fountain of thought. 
Here are the lungs of that inspiration which ^veth man 
wisdom, of that inspiration of man which cannot be denied 
without impiety and atheism. We lie in the lap of im- 



162 SELF-REUANCB 

JOl^nse intellig enc e, which Tnakpff na nrgang of it.g AP.f:mf.y^ 

gnd receiverfl Of Its truth J When we discern justice, when 
we discern truth, we do nothing of ourselves but allow a 
passage to its beams. If we ask whence this comes, if we 
seek to pry into the soul that causes, all metaphysics, 
all philosophy is at fault. Its presence or its absence is 
all we can affirm. Every man discerns between the volun- 
tary acts of his mind, and his involuntary perceptions. 
And to his involuntary perceptions he knows a perfect 
respect is due. He may err in the expression of them, but 
he knows that these things are so, like day and night, not 
to be disputed. All my willful actions and acquisitions are 
but roving; — ^the most trivial reverie, the faintest emotion 
are domestic and divine. Thoughtless people contradict 
as readily the statement of perceptions as of opinions, 
or rather much more readily; for they do not distinguish 
between perception and notion. They fancy that I choose 
to see this or that thing. But perception is not whimsical, 
but fatal. If I see a trait, my children will see it after me, 
and in course of time all mankind, — ^although it may 
chance that no one has seen it before me. For my per- 
ception of it is as much a fact as the sun. 

The relations of the soul to the divine spirit are so pure 
that it is profane to seek to interpose help. It must be 
that when God speaketh, he should conmiunicate not one 
thing, but all things; should fill the world with his voice; 
should scatter forth light, nature, time, souls, from the center 
of the present thought; and new date and new create the 
whole. Whenever a mind is simple, and receives a divine 
wisdom, then old things pass away, — ^means, teachers, texts, 
temples fall; it lives now, and absorbs past and future into 
the present hour. All things are made sacred by relation to 
it, — one thing as much as another. All things are dissolved 
to their center by their cause, and in the universal miracle 
petty and particular miracles disappear. This is and must 
be. If, therefore, a man claims to know and speak of God, 
and carries you backward to the phraseology of some old 
mouldered nation in another country, in PTio+her world, 
believe him not. Is the acorn better than the oak v/hich is 






SELF-RELIANCE 163 

its fullness and completion? Is the parent better than 
the child into whom he has cast his ripened being? Whence 
then this worship of the past? The centuries are conspir- 
ators against the sanity and majesty of the soul. Time and 
space are but physiological colors which the eye maketh, 1 ;^ 
but the soul is hght; where it is, is day; where it was, is \^ 
night; and history is an impertinence and an injury, if it |^ 
be anything more than a cheerful apologue or parable ^ 
of my being and becoming. H 

Man is timid and apologetic. He is no longer upright. 
He dares not say "I think," "I am," but quotes some saint 
or sage. He is ashamed before the blade of grass or the 
blowing rose. These roses under my window make no ref- 
erence to former roses or to better ones; they are for 
what they are; they exist with God to-day. There is no - 
time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in 
every moment of its existence. Before a leaf-bud has burst, - ^; 
its whole life acts; in the full-blown flower there is no more; .^ 
in the leafless root there is no less. Its nature is satisfied, 
and it satisfies nature, in all moments alike. There is no 
time to it. But man postpones or remembers; he does 
not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, ^;- 
or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tip- ^ 
toe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong 
until he too lives with natu re in fhe 'present, aT)bve J;ims. ^ 

This should Ife" pTain enough. Ye^ see what strong in-lipS 
tellects dare not yet hear God himself, unless he speak the'\ 
phraseology of I know not what David, or Jeremiah, or A^ 
Paul. We shall not always set so great a price on a few \ 
texts, on a few lives. We are like children who repeat by \ 
rote the sentences of grandames and tutors, and, as they >^ \ v 
grow older, of the men of talents and character they chance ' * 
to see, — painfully recollecting the exact words they spoke; 
afterwards, when they come into the point of view which 
those had who uttered these sayings, they understand them, . , 
and are willing to let the words go; for, at any time, they 
can use words as good, when occasion comes. So was it^^ 
with us; so will it be, if we proceed. If we live truly, we ^ 
shall see truly. It is as easy for the strong man to be strong, 



164 SELF-RELIANCE 

as it is for the weak to be weak. When we have new per- 
ception, we shall gladly disburden the memory of its hoarded 
treasures as old rubbish. When a man lives with Ond his 
voice shall be as sweet as the murmur of the bro ok and the 
rustle of the corn. 

And now at last the highest truth on this subject re- 
mains imsaid, probably cannot be said; for all that we say 
is the far-off remembering of the intuition. That thought, 
by what I can now nearest approach to say it, is this. When 
good is near you, when you have hfe in yourself, — ^it is not 
by any known or appointed way; you shall not discern the 
footprints of any other; you shall not see the face of man; 
you shall not hear any name; — ^the way, the thought, the 
good shall be wholly strange and new. It shall exclude all 
other being. You take the way from man, not to man. All 
persons that ever existed are its fugitive ministers. There 
shall be no fear in it. Fear and hope are alike beneath it. 
It asks nothing. There is somewhat low even in hope. We 
are then in vision. There is nothing that can be called 
gratitude nor properly joy. The soul is raised over passion. 
It seeth identity and eternal causation. It is a perceiving 
that Truth and Right are. Hence it becomes a TranquiUity 
out of the knowing that all things go well. Vast spaces of 
nature, the Atlantic Ocean, the South Sea; vast intervals 
of time, years, centuries, are of no account. This which I 
think and feel, underlay that former state of life and circum- 
stances, as it does underlie my present, and will always 
all circumstance, and what is called life, and what is called 
death. 
y Life only avails, not the having lived. Power ceases in 
the instant of repose; it resides in the moment of transition 
from a past to a new state; in the shooting of the gulf; 
in the darting to an aim. This one fact the world hates, 
that the soul becomes; for that forever degrades the past; 
turns all riches to poverty, all reputation to a shame; con- 
founds the saint with the rogue; shoves Jesus and Judas 
equally aside. Why then do we prate of self-rehance? 
Inasmuch as the soul is present, there will be power not con- 
fident but agent. To talk of reliance, is a poor external 



SELF-REUANCE 166 

way of speaking. Speak rather of that which relies, be- 
cause it works and is. Who has more soul than I masters 
me, though he should not raise his finger. Round him I 
must revolve by the gravitation of spirits; who has less, I 
rule with like facility. We fancy it rhetoric when we speak 
of eminent virtue. We do not yet see that virtue is Height, 
and that a man or a company of men plastic and permeable 
to principles, by the law of nature must overpower and ride 
all cities, nations, kings, rich men, poets, who are not. 

This is the ultimate fact which we so quickly reach on 
this as on every topic, the resolution of all into the ever- 
blessed One. Virtue is the governor, the creator, the 
reality. All things real are so by so much of virtue as they 
contain. Hardship, husbandry, hunting, whaling, war, elo- 
quence, personal weight, are somewhat, and engage my 
respect as examples of the soul's presence and impure ac- 
tion. I see the same law working in nature for conservation 
and growth. The poise of a planet, the bended tree re- 
covering itself from the strong wind, the vital resources of 
every vegetable and animal, are also demonstrations 
of the self-sufficing, and therefore self-relying soul. All 
history from its highest to its trivial passages, is the vari- 
ous record of this power. 

Thus all concentrates: let us not rove; let us sit at home 
with the cause. Let us stun and astonish the intruding 
rabble of men and books and institutions by a simple dec- 
laration of the divine fact. Bid them take their shoes from 
off their feet, for God is here within. Let our simphcity 
judge them, and our docility to our own law demonstrate 
the poverty of nature and fortune beside our native riches. 

But now we are a mob. Man does not stand in awe of 
man; nor is the soul admonished to stay at home, to put 
itself in communication with the internal ocean, but it goes 
abroad to beg a cup of water of the urns of men. We must 
go alone. Isolation must prece de true s ociety. I like the 
silent church before the service begins,' ^eCler than any 
preaching. How far off, how cool, how chaste the persons 
look, begirt each one with a precinct or sanctuary! So 
let us always sit. Why should we assume the faults of our 



166 SEUi-RELIANCE 

friend, or wife, or father, or child, because they sit around 
our hearth, or are said to have the same blood? All men 
have my blood, and I have all men's. Not for that will I 
adopt their petulance or folly, even to the extent of being 
ashamed of it. But y our isolation must not h ^ Tppp^l^anifiAl, 
but spiritual, thafis, must be eleva tion^ At times the whole 
world seems to be in conspiracy to importime you with 
emphatic trifles. Friend, client, child, sickness, fear, want, 
charity, all knock at once at thy closet-door and say, "Come 
out unto us." — ^Do not spill thy soul; do not all descend; 
keep thy state; stay at home in thine own heaven; come 
not for a moment into their facts, into their hubbub of con- 
flicting appearances, but let in the light of thy law on their 
confusion. The power men possess to annoy me, I give 
them by a weak curiosity. No man can come near me 
but through my act. "What we love, that we have; but 
by desire we bereave ourselves of the love." 

If we cannot at once rise to the sanctities of obedience and 
faith, let us at least resist our temptations, let us enter into 
the state of war, and wake Thor and Woden, courage and 
constancy, in our Saxon breasts. This is to be done in our 
smooth times by speaking the truth. Check this lying hos- 
pitahty and lying affection. Live no longer to the expecta- 
tion of these deceived and deceiving people with whom 
we converse. Say to them, O father, O mother, wife, 

brother, O friend, I have lived with you after appear- 
ances hitherto. Henceforward I am the truth's. Be it 
known unto you that henceforward I obey no law less than 
the eternal law. I will have no covenants but proximities. 

1 shall endeavor to nourish my parents, to support my 
family, to be the chaste husband of one wife, — but these 
relations I must fill after a new and unprecedented way. 
I appeal from your customs. I must be myself. I cannot 
break myself any longer from you, or you. If you can 
love me for what I am, we shall be the happier. If you 
cannot, I will still seek to deserve that you should. I must 
be myself. I will not hide my tastes or aversions. I will 
so trust that what is deep is holy, that I will do strongly 
before the sun and moon whatever inly rejoices me, and 



SELF-REUANCE 167 

the heart appoints. If you are noble, I will love you; if 
you are not, I will not hurt you and myself by hypocritical 
attentions. If you are true, but not in the same truth with 
me, cleave to your companions; I will seek my own. I do 
this not selfishly, but humbly and truly. It is alike your 
interest and mine and all men's, however long we have dwelt 
in hes, to live in truth. Does thife sound harsh to-day? 
You will soon love what is dictated by your nature as well 
as mine; and if we follow the truth, it will bring us out 
safe at last. — But so you may give these friends pain. Yes, 
but I cannot sell my Uberty and my power, to save their 
sensibihty. Besides, all persons have their moments of 
reason, when they look out into the region of absolute truth; 
then will they justify me and do the same thing. 

The populace think that your rejection of popular stand- 
ards is a rejection of all standard, and mere antinomian- 
ism; and the bold sensualist will use the name of philosophy 
to gUd his crimes. But the law .of consciousness abides. 
There are two confessionals, in one or the other of which we 
must be shriven. You may fulfil your round of duties by 
clearing yourself in the direct, or in the reflex way. Con- 
sider whether you have satisfied your relations to father, 
mother, cousin, neighbor, town, cat, and dog; whether any 
of these can upbraid you. But I may also neglect this 
reflex standard, and absolve me to myself. I have my own 
stem claims and perfect circle. It denies the name of duty 
to many offices that are called duties. But if I can dis- 
charge its debts, it enables me to dispense with the popular 
code. If any one imagines that this law is lax, let him keep 
its commandment one day. 

And truly it demands something godlike in him who 
has cast off the common motives of humanity, and has ven- 
tured to trust himself for a task-master. High be his heart, 
faithful his will, clear his sight, that he may in good earnest 
be doctrine, society, law to himself, that a simple purpose 
may be to him as strong as iron necessity is to others, 
f If any man consider the present aspects of what is called 
\ by distinction society, he will see the need of these ethics. 
\rhe sinew and heart of naan seem to be drawn out, and wc 



168 SELF-RELIANCE 

are become timorous desponding whimperers. We are 
afraid of truth, afraid of fortime, afraid of death, and 
afraid of each other. Our age yields no great and perfect 
persons. We want men and women who shall renovate hfe 
and our social state, but we see that most natures are in- 
solvent; cannot satisfy their own wants, have an ambition 
out of all proportion to their practical force, and so do 
lean and beg day and night continually^ Our housekeeping 
is mendicant; our arts, our occupations, our marriages, our 
reUgion we have not chosen, but society has chosen for us. 
We .are parlor soldiers. The rugged battle of fate, where 
strength is bom, we shun\^ 

If our young men miscarry in their first enterprises, 
they lose all heart. If the young merchant fails, men say 
he is ruined. If the finest genius studies at one of our col- 
leges, and is not installed in an office within one year after- 
wards in the cities or suburbs of Boston or New York, it 
seems to his friends and to himself that he is right in being 
disheartened and in complaining the rest of his life.*^ 
sturdy lad from New Hampshire or Vermont, who in turn 
tries ajl the professions, who teams it, farms it, peddles, 
keeps a school, preaches, edits a newspaper, goes to Con- 
gress, buys a township, and so forth, in syccessive years, and 
always, like a cat, falls on his feet, is worth a hundred of 
these city dolls. He walks abreast with his days, and feels 
no shame in not "studying a profession,*' for he does not 
postpone his life, but lives already. He has not one chance, 
but a hundred chances^ Let a stoic arise who shall reveal 
the resources of man, and tell men they are not leaning 
willows, but can and must detach themselves; that with the 
exercise of self-trust, new powers shall appear; that a man is 
the word made flesh, born to shed healing to the nations; 
that he should be ashamed of our compassion; and that the 
moment he acts from himself, tossing the laws, the books, 
idolatries, and customs out of the window, we pity him no 
more, but thank and revere him; — and that teacher shall 
restore the life of man to splendor, and make his name 
dear to all History. 

It is easy to see that a greater self-reliance, — a new re- 



SELF-RELIANCE 169 

spect for the divinity in man, — ^must work a revolution in 
ail the ojGRces and relations of menj in their religion; in their 
education; in their pursuits; their modes of hving; their 
association; in their property; in their speculative views* 
1. In what prayers do men allow themselves! That which 
they call a holy office, is not so much as brave and manly. 
Prayer looks abroad, and asks for some foreign addition to 
come through some foreign virtue, and loses itself in endless 
mazes of natural and supernatural, and mediatorial and 
miraculous. Prayer that craves a particular commodity — 
any thing less than all good, is vicious. Prayer is the con- 
templation of the facts of life from the highest point of 
view. It is the soliloquy of a beholding and jubilant soul. 
It is the spirit of God pronouncing his works good. But 
prayer as a means to effect a private end, is theft and mean- 
ness. It supposes dualism and not unity in nature and con- 
sciousness. As soon as the man is at one with God, he will 
not beg. He will then see prayer in all action. The prayer 
of the farmer kneeling in his field to weed it, the prayer 
of the rower kneeling with the stroke of his oar, are true 
prayers heard throughout nature, though for cheap ends. 
Caratach, in Fletcher's Bonduca, when admonished to 
inquire the mind of the god Andate, rephes, 

"His hidden meaning lies in our endeavours, 
Our valours are our best gods." 

Another sort of false prayers are our regrets. Discon- 
tent is the want of self-rehance : it is infirmity of will. 
Regret calamities, if you can thereby help the sufferer; if 
not, attend your own work, and already the evil begins to 
be repaired. Our sympathy is just as base. We come to 
them who weep foolishly, and sit down and cry for com- 
pany, instead of imparting to them truth and health in 
rough electric shocks, putting them once more in commun- 
ication with the soul. The secret of fortune is joy in our 
^hands. Welcome evermore to gods and men is the 
"self-helpmg^ man. For him all doors are flung wide. Him 
alTtongues greet, all honors crown, all eyes follow with de- 
sire. Our love goes out to him and embraces him, because 



170 SELF-RELIANCE 

he did not need it. jWe solicitously and apologetically catess 
and celebrate him, because he held on his way and scorned 
our disapprobation. The gods love him, because men hated 
him. "To the persevering mortal," said Zoroaster, "the 
blessed Immortals are swift." 

^ As men's prayers are a disease of the will, so are their 
creeds a disease of the intellect. They say with those foohsh 
Israelites, "Let not God speak to us, lest we die. Speak 
thou, speak any man with us, and we will obey." Every- 
where I am bereaved of meeting God in my brother, because 
he has shut his own temple-doors, and recites fables merely 
of his brother's, or his brother's brother's God. Every new 
mind is a new classification. If it prove a mind of un- 
common activity and power, a Locke, a Lavoisier, » Hutton, 
a Bentham, a Spurzheim, it imposes its classification on other 
men, and lo! a new system. In proportion always to the 
depth of the thought, and so to the number of the objects 
it touches and brings within the reach of the pupil, is his 
complacency. But chiefly is this apparent in creeds and 
churches, which are also classifications of some powerful 
mind acting on the great elemental thought of Duty, and 
man's relation to the Highest. Such is Calvinism, Quaker- 
ism, Swedenborgianism. The pupil takes the same dehght 
in subordinating every thing to the new terminology, that 
a girl does who has just learned botany, in seeing a new 
earth and new seasons thereby. It will happen for a time, 
that the pupil will feel a real debt to the teacher, — ^will find 
his intellectual power has grown by the study of his writings. 
This will continue until he has exhausted his master's mind. 
But in all unbalanced minds the classification is idolized, 
passes for the end, and not for a speedily exhaustible means, 
so that the walls of the system blend to their eye in the 
remote horizon with the walls of the universe; the liimi- 
naries of heaven seem to them hung on the arch their master 
built. They cannot imagine how you aliens have any right 
to see, — ^how can you see; "It must be somehow that you 
stole the light from us." They do not yet perceive, that' 
light unsystematic, indomitable, will break into any cabin, 
even into theirs. Let them chirp awhile and call it their 



SELF-RELIANCE ' ^ . ' 171 

i. 

own. If they are honest and do well, presently their neat 
new pinfold will be too strait and low, will crack, will lean, 
will rot and vanish, and the immortal hght, all young and 
joyful, miUion-orbed, miUion-colored, will beam over the 
universe as on the first morning. 

2. It is for want of self-culture that the idol of Travel- 
ling, the idol of Italy, of England, of Egypt, remains for 
all educated Americans. They who made England, Italy, 
or Greece venerable in the imagination, did so not by ram- 
bling round creation as a moth round a lamp, but by sticking 
fast where they were, like an axis of the earth. In manly 
hours we feel that duty is our place, and that the merrymen 
of circumstance should follow as they may. The soul is no 
traveler: the wise man stays at home with the soul; and 
when his necessities, his duties, on any occasion call him 
from his house, or into foreign lands, he is at home still, 
and is not gadding abroad from himself, and shall make 
men sensible by the expression of his countenance, that he 
goes the missionary of wisdom and virtue, and visits cities 
and men like a sovereign, and not like an interloper or a 
valet. 

I have no churlish objection to the circumnavigation of 
the globe for the purposes of art, of study, and of benevo- 
lence, so that the man is first domesticated, or does not go 
abroad with the hope of finding somewhat greater than he 
knows. He who travels to be amused, or to get somewhat 
which he does not carry, travels away from himself, and 
grows old even in youth among old things. In Thebes, in 
Palmyra, his will and mind have become old and dilapidated 
as they. He carries ruins to ruins. 

Travelling is a fooFs paradise. We owe to our first jour- 
ney? the discovery that place is nothing. At home I dream 
that at Naples, at Rome, I can be intoxicated with beauty, 
and lose my sadness. I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, 
embark on the sea and at last wake up in Naples, and there 
beside me is the stern Fact, the sad Self, unrelenting, iden- 
tical, that I fled from I seek the Vatican, and the palaces 
I affect to bp intoxicated with sie;hts and suggestions, but I 
am not intoxicated. My giant goes with me wherever I go. 



o^ 



172 SELF-RELIANCE 

3. But the rage of travelling is itself only a 83anptom 
of a deeper unsoundness, affecting the whole intellectual 
action. The intellect is vagabond, and the imiversal system 
of education fosters restlessness. Oumrinds travel wlTen 
our bodies are forced tc^ stay at home. We imitate; and 
what is imitation but the traveling of the mind? Our 
houses are built with foreign taste; our shelves are garnished 
with foreign ornaments; our opinions, our tastes, our whole 
minds lean, and follow the Past and the Distant, as the eyes 
of a maid follow her mistress. The soul created the arts 
wherever they have flourished. It was in his own mind that 
tha artist sought his model. It was an application of his 
own thought to the thing to be done and the conditions to 
be observed. And why need we copy the Doric or the 
Gothic model? Beauty, convenience, grandeur of thought, 
and quaint expression, are as near to us as to any; and if 
the American artist will study with hope and love the pre- 
cise thing to be done by him, considering the climate, the 
soil, the length of the day, the wants of the people, the 
habit iand form of the government, he will create a house in 
which all these will find themselves fitted, and taste and 
sentiment will be satisfied also. 

Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you 
can present every moment with the cumulative force of a 
whole life's cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another 
you have only an extemporaneous, half possession. That 
which each can do best, none but hi s Make r can teach him. 
No man yet knows what it is, noF'can, tilT that person has 
exhibited it. Where is the master who could have taught 
Shakspeare? Where is the master who could have instruc- 
ted Franklin, or Washington, or Bacon, or Newton? Every 
great man is an unique. The Scipionism of Scipio is pre- 
cisely that part he could not borrow. If anybody will tell 
me whom the great man imitates in the original crisis when 
he performs a great act, I will tell him who else than himself 
can teach him. Shakspeare will never be made by the study 
of Shakspeare. Do that which is assigned thee, and thou 
canst not hope too much or dare too much. There is at this 
moment, there is for me an utterance bare and grand as that 



SELF-REUANCE 173 

of the colossal chisel of Phidias, or trowel of the Egyptians, 
or the pen of Moses, or Dante, but different from all these. 
Not possibly will the soul all rich, all eloquent, with thous- 
and-cloven tongue, deign to repeat itself; but if I can hear 
what these patriarchs say, surely I can reply to them in the 
same pitch of voice: for the ear and the tongue are two organs 
of one nature. Dwell up there in the simple and noble 
regions of thy life, obey thy heart, and thou shalt reproduce 
the Foreworld again. -* 

4. As our Religion, our Education, our Art look abroad, 
so does our spirit of society. All men plume themselves on 
the improvement of society, and no man improves. 

Society never advances. It recedes as fast on one side 
as it gains on the other. Its progress is only apparent, 
like the workers of a treadmill. It undergoes continual 
changes: it is barbarous, it is civilized, it is christianized, 
it is rich, it is scientific; but this change is not amel- 
ioration. For every thing that is given something is 
taken. Society acquires new arts, and loses old instincts. 
What a contrast between the well-clad, reading, writing, 
thinking American, with a watch, a pencil, and a bill of ex- 
change in his pocket, and the naked New Zealander, whose 
poverty is a club, a spear, a mat, and an imdivided twenti- 
eth of a shed to sleep under! But compare the health of 
the two men, and you shall see that his aboriginal strength 
the white man has lost. If the traveller tell us truly, strike 
the savage with a broad axe, and in a day or two the flesh 
shall unite and heal as if you struc]^ the blow into soft pitch, 
and the same blow shall send the white to his grave. 

The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use 
of his feet. He is supported on crutches, but loses so much 
support of muscle. He has got a fine Geneva watch, but he 
has lost the skill to tell the hour by the sun. A Greenwich 
nautical almanac he has, and so being sure of the information 
when he wants it, the man in the street does not know a star 
in the sky. The solstice he does not observe; the equinox 
he knows as little; and the whole bright calendar of the year 
is without a dial in his mind. His note books impair his 
memory; his libraries overload his wit; the insurance-office 



174 SELF-RELIANCE 

increases the number of accidents; and it may be a question 
whether machinery does not encumber; whether we have not 
lost by refinement some energy, by a Christianity entrenched 
in estabhshments and forms some vigor of wild virtue. For 
every stoic was a stoic; but in Christendom where is the 
Christian? 

There is no more deviation in the moral standard than 
in the standard of height or bulk. No greater men are now 
than ever were. A singular equahty may be observed 
between the great men of the first and of the last ages; nor 
can all the science, art, religion, and philosophy of the nine- 
teenth century avail to educate greater men than Plutarch's 
heroes, three or four and twenty centuries ago. Not in time 
is the race progressive. Phocion, Socrates, Anaxagoras, 
Diogenes, are great men, but they leave no class. He who 
is really of their class will not be called by their name, but 
be wholly his own man, and in his turn the founder of a 
sect. The arts and inventions of each period are only its 
costume, and do not invigorate men. The harm of the im- 
proved machinery may compensate its good. Hudson and 
Behring accomplished so much in their fishing-boats, as to 
astonish Parry and Franklin, whose equipment exhausted 
the resources of science and art. Galileo, with an opera- 
glass, discovered a more splendid series of facts than any one 
since. Columbus found the New World in an undecked 
boat. It is curious to see the periodical disuse and perish- 
ing of means and machinery which were introduced with 
loud laudation a few years or centuries before. The great 
genius returns to essential man. We reckoned the improve- 
ments of war among the triumphs of science, and yet Napo- 
leon conquered Europe by the Bivouac, which consisted of 
falling back on naked valor, and disencumbering it of all 
aids. The Emperor held it impossible to make a perfect 
army, says Las Casas, "without aboHshing our arms, mag- 
azines, conmiissaries, and carriages; until, in imitation of the 
Roman custom, the soldier should receive his supply of 
corn, grind it in his hand-mill, and bake his bread himself." 

Society' is a wave. The wave moves onward, but the 
water of which it is composed does not. The same particle 

\ 



SELF-RELIANCE 175 

does not rise from the valley to the ridge. Its unity is only 
phenomenal. The persons who make up a nation to-day, 
next year die, and their experience with them. 

And so the reliance on Property, including the reliance on 
governments which protect it, is the want of self-reliance. 
Men have looked away from themselves and at things so 
long, that they have come to esteem what they call the soul's 
progress, namely, the rehgious, learned, and civil institu- 
tions, as guards of property, and they deprecate assaults on 
these, because they feel them to be assaults on property. 
They measure their esteem of each other by what each has, 
and not by what each is. But a cultivated man becomes 
ashamed of his property, ashamed of what he has, out of 
new respect for his being. Especially he hates what he has, 
if he sees that it is accidental, — came to him by inheritance, 
or gift, or crime; then he feels that it is not having; it does 
not belong to him, has no root in him, and merely hes there, 
because no revolution or no robber takes it away. But 
that which a man is, does always by necessity acquire, and 
what the man acquires is permanent and hving property, 
which does not wait the beck of rulers, or mobs, or rev- 
olutions,- or fire, or storm, or bankruptcies, but perpetually 
renews itself wherever the man is put. "Thy lot or portion 
of life," said the CaUph Ali, "is seeking after thee; therefore 
be at rest from seeking after it." Our dependence on these 
foreign goods leads us to our slavish respect for numbers. 
The pohtical parties meet in numerous conventions; the 
greater the concourse, and with each new uproar of an- 
nouncement, The delegation from Essex! The Democrats 
from New Hampshire! The Whigs of Maine! the young 
patriot feels himself stronger than before by a new thous- 
and of eyes and arms. In like manner the reformers sum- 
mon conventions, and vote and resolve in multitude. But 
not so, friends! will the God deign to enter and inhabit, 
you; but by a method precisely the reverse. It is only 
as a man puts off from himself all external support, and 
stands alone, that I see him to be strong and to prevail. He 
is weaker bv pverv recniit to his banner. Is not a man 
better than a town? Ask nothing of men, and in the end- 



176 SELF-RELIANCE 

less mutation, thou only firm column must appear the up- 
holder of all that surrounds thee. He who knows that power 
is in the soul, that he is weak only because he has looked 
for good out of him and elsewhere, and so perceiving, throws 
himself unhesitatingly on his thought, instantly rights him- 
self, stands in the erect position, commands his limbs, works 
miracles; just as a man who stands on his feet is stronger 
than a man who stands on his head. 

So use all that is called Fortune. Most men gamble with 
her, and gain all, and lose all, as her wheel rolls. But do 
thou leave as imlawf ul these ^^nings, and deal with Cause 
and Effect, the chancellors of God. In the Will work and ac- 
quire, and thou hast chained the wheel of Chance, and 
shall always drag her after thee. A political victory, a 
rise of rents, the recovery of your sick, or the return of 
your absent friend, or some other quite external event, raises 
your spirits, and you think good days are preparing for you. 
Do not believe it. It can never be so. Nothing can bring 
you peace but yourself. Nothijag joau hnj\z you peace but 
the trimnph of principles. 



1 



Vlli 
COMPENSATION 

Ever since I was a boy, I have wished to write a dis- 
course on Compensation: for it seemed to me when very 
young, that, on this subject. Life was ahead of theology, 
and the people knew more than the preachers taught. The 
documents, too, from which the doctrine is to be drawn, 
charmed my fancy by their endless variety, and lay always 
before me, even in sleep; for they are the tools in our hands, 
the bread in our basket, the transactions of the street, the 
farm, and the dwelling-house, the greetings, the relations, 
the debts and credits, the influence of character, the nature 
and endowment of all men. It seemed ^o me also that in it 
might be shown men a ray of divinity, the present action of 
the Soul of this world, clean from all vestige of tradition, 
and so the heart of man might be bathed by an innundation 
of eternal love, conversing with that which he knows was 
always and always must be, because it really is now. It 
appeared, moreover, that if this doctrine could be stated in 
terms with any resemblance to those bright intuitions in 
which this truth is sometimes revealed to us, it would be a 
star in many dark hours and crooked passages in our jour- 
ney, that would not suffer us to lose our way. 

I was lately confirmed in these desires by hearing a ser- 
mon at church. The preacher, a man esteemed for his 
orthodoxy, unfolded in the ordinary manner the doctrine of 
the Last Judgment. He assumed that judgment is not ex- 
ecuted in this world; that the wicked are successful; that the 
good are miserable; and then urged from reason and from 
Scripture a compensation to be made to both parties in the 
next life. No offence appeared to be taken by the congre- 
gation at this doctrine. As far as I could observe, when 

177 



178 COMPENSATION 

the meeting broke up, they separated without remark on the 
sermon. 

Yet what was the import of this teaching? What did the 
preacher mean by saying that the good are miserable in the 
present Ufe? Was it that houses and lands, offices, wine, 
horses, dress, luxury, are had by unprincipled men, whilst 
the saints are poor and despised; and that a compensation 
is to be made to these last hereafter, by giving them the 
like gratifications another day, — ^bankstock and doubloons, 
venison and champagne? This must be the compensation 
intended; for what else? Is it that they are to have leave 
to pray and praise? to love and serve men? Why, that 
they can do now. The legitimate inference the disciple 
would draw, was: "We are to have such a good time as the 
sinners have now"; — or, to push it to its extreme import: 
"You sin now; we shall sin by and by: we would sin now, if 
we could; not being successful, we expect our revenge to- 
morrow." 

The fallacy lay in the inmiense concession that the bad 
are successful; that justice is not done now. THe blind- 
ness of the preacher consisted in deferring^tp the basse esti- 
mate of the market of what constitutes a manly^ success, 
instead of confronting and con\dcting the world from the 
truth; amiotrncing the Presence of the Soul, the onuiipo- 
tence ofjj ie Will ; and so establishing the standard of good 
and ill, of success and falsehood, and summoning the dead 
to its present tribunal. 

I find a similar base tone in the popular religious works 
of the day, and the same doctrines assumed by the literary 
men when occasionally they treat the related topics. I 
think that our popular theology has gained in decorum, and 
not in principle, over the superstitions it has displaced. 
But men are better than this theology. Their daily life 
gives it the lie. Every ingenious and aspiring soul leaves 
the doctrine behind him in his own experience; and all men 
feel sometimes the falsehood which they cannot demonstrate. 
For men are wiser than they know. That which they hear 
in schools and pulpits without afterthought, if said in con- 
versation would probably be questioned in silence. If a 



COMPENSATION 179 

man dogmatize in a mixed company on Providence and the 
divine laws, he is answered by a silence which conveys well 
enough to an observer the dissatisfaction of the hearer, but 
his incapacity to make his own statement. 

I shall attempt in this and the following chapter to record 
some facts that indicate the path of the law of Compensa- 
tion; happy beyond my expectation, if I shall truly draw 
the sn^est arcjrf this circle, 
A^ Polarity, or action and reaction, we meet in every part v^ 
V of nature; in darkness and light; in heat and cold; in the 
ebb and flow of waters; in male and female; in the inspi- 
ration and expiration of plants and animals; in the systole 
and diastole of the heart; in the undulations of fluid and of 
sound; in the centrifugal and centripetal gravity; in elec- 
tricity, galvanism, and chemical affinity. Superinduce mag- 
netism at one end of a needle, the opposite magnetism takes 
place at the other end. If the south attracts, the north re- 
pels. To empty here, you must condense there. An inevit- 
able dualism bisects nature, so that each thing is a half, and 
suggests aliother thing to make it whole; as spirit, matter; 
man, woman; subjective, objective; in, out; upper, under; 
' motion, rest; yea, nay. 

Whilst the world is thus dual, so is every one of its parts, u-- 
The entire system of things gets represented in every par- * 
tide. There is somewhat that resembles the ebb and flow 
of the sea, day and night, man and woman, in a single needle 
of the pine, in a kernel of com, in each individual of every 
animal tribe. The reaction so grand in the elements is 
repeated within these small boundaries. For example, in 
the animal kingdom, the physiologist has observed that no 
creatures are favorites, but a certain compensation balances 
every gift and every defect. A surplusage given to one 
part is paid out of a reduction from another part of the same 
creature. If the head and neck are enlarged, the tnmk and 
extremities are cut short. 

The theory of the mechanic forces is another example. 

What we gain in power is lost in time; and the converse. 

The periodic or compensating errors of the planets is an- 

^ Other instance. The influences of clioaate and soil in poli- 



180 COMPENSATION 

tical history are another. The cold climate invigorates; the 
barren soil does not breed fevers, crocodiles, tigers, or 
scorpions. 

The same dualism miderlies the nature and condition of 
man. Every excess causes a defect; every defect an ex- 
cess. Every sweet hath its sour; every evil its good. 
Every faculty which is a receiver of pleasure, has an equal 
penalty put on its abuse. It is to answer for its moderation 
with its life. For every grain of wit there is a grain of folly. 
For every thing you have missed, you have gained some- 
thing else; and for every thing you gain, you lose something. 
If riches increase, they are increased that use them. If 
the gatherer gathers too much, nature takes out of the man 
what she puts into his chest; swells the estate, but kills the 

V owner. Nature hates monopolies and exceptions. The 
waves of the sea do not more speedily seek a level frflhi their 
loftiest tossing, than the varieties of conditiop tend to equal- 
ize themselves. There is always some levelling circmnstance, 
that puts down the overbearing, the strong, the rich, the for- 
tunate, substantially on the same ground with all others. 
Is a man too strong and fierce for society, and by temper 
and position a bad citizen, — a morose ruffian with a dash of 
the pirate in him; — ^nature sends him a troop of pretty sons - 

' and daughters, who are getting along in the dame's classes at 
the village-school, and love and fear for them smooths his 
grim scowl to courtesy. Thus she contrives to intenerato 
the granite and feldspar, takes the boar out and puts the 
lamb in, and keeps her balance true. 

The farmer imagines power and place are fine things. But 
the President has paid dear for his White House. It has 
commonly cost him all his peace and the best of his manly 
attributes. To preserve for a short time so conspicuous an 
appearance before the world, he is content to eat dust before 
the real masters, who stand erect behind the throne. Or, 
do men desire the more substantial and permanent grandeur 
of genius? Neither has this an inmiunity. He who by 
force of will or of thought is great, and overlooks thousands, 
has the responsibility of overlooking. With every influx 
of light comes new dajiger. Has he light? he must bear wit- 






COMPENSATION 181 

ness to the light, and always outrun that sympathy which 
gives him such keen satisfaction, by his fidelity to new reve- 
lations of the incessant soul. He must hate father and mother, 
wife and child. Has he all that the world loves and admires 
and covets? he must cast behind him their admiration, and 
afflict them by faithfulness to his truth, and become a by- 
word and a hissing. 

This Law writes the laws of cities and nations. It will 
not be baulked of its end in the smallest iota. It is in 
vain to build or plot or combine against it. I Jiings refuse 
to be mis TTiana ^f^H long. Res nolunt diu male administrari. 
Though no checks to a new evil appear, the checks exist, and -^ 
will appear. If the government is cruel, the governor's <: 
life is not safe. If you tax too high, the revenue will yield c 
nothing. If you make the criminal code sanguinary, juries ^ 
will not convict. Nothing arbitrary, nothing artificial can en- 
dure, The true Hfe and satisfactions of man seem to elude i 
the utmost rigors or felicities of condition, and to establish \ 
themselves with great indifferency under all varieties of 
circumstance. Under all governments the influence of char- 
acter remains the same, — in Turkey and in New England 
about ahke. Under the primeval despots of Egypt, history 

• honestly confesses that man must have been as free as cul- 
ture could make him. 

X These appearances indicate the fact that the universe is 
'ix represented in every one of its particles. Every thing in 
, nature contain s all the powers of nature. Every thing is 
maae oi one hidden yiUiT; ua thtt MlllraTist sees one type 
under every metamorphosis, and regards a horse as a running 
^jC^pan, a fish as a swimming man, a bird as a flying man, a 
^ tree as a rooted man. Each new form repeats not only the 
main character of the type, but part for part all the details, 
all the aims, furtherances, hinderances, energies, and whole 
system of every other. Every occupation, trade, art, trans- 
action, is a compend of the world, and a correlative of 
every other. Each one is an entire emblem of human life; 
of its good and ill, its trials, its enemies, its course, and its 
end. And each one must somehow accommodate the whole 
man. and recite all his destiny. 



Y 



182 COMPENSATION 

The world globes itself in a drop of dew. The micro- 
scope cannot find the animalcule which is less perfect for 
being little. Eyes, ears, taste, smell, motion, resistance, 
appetite, and organs of reproduction that take hold on eter- 
nity, — ^all find room to consist in the small creature. So do ^ 
we put our life into every act. T he true doct rine of 
omnipresence is, that God reappears with ail his pArts iiT" 
every moss and cobweb. The value of the universe con- 
trives to throw itself into every point. If the good is there, 
so is the evil; if the affinity, so the repulsion; if the force, so 
the limitation. 

Thus is the universe alive. All things are moral . That 
soul which within us is a sentiment, outside ot us is a law. 
We feel its inspirations; out there in history we can see its 
fatal strength. It is almighty. All nature feels its grasp. 
"It is in the world, and the world was made by it." It is 
eternal, but it enacts itself in time and space. Justice is 
not postponed. A perfect equity adjusts its balance in all 
parts of life. Ot kv^oi. Aios a,^ eifiriirTova-i, The dice of 
God are alwajrs loaded. The world looks like a multiplica- 
tion-table or a mathematical equation, which; turn It how 
you will, balances itself. Take what figure you will, its 
exact value, nor more nor less, still returns to you. Every 
secret is told, every crime is punished, every virtue re- 
warded, every wrong redressed, in silence and certainty. 
What we call retribution, is the universal necessity by which 
the whole appears wherever a part appears. If you see ^ 
smoke, there must be a fire. If you see a hand or a limb, ' 
you know that the trunk to which it belongs is there behind. 

Every-^t .rewards itself, or^.in. other wprdSyJntegrates 
itself, in a twofold manner; first, in the thing, or in real nat- 
ure;.' .and-' secondly, ia .tke^ circumstance, or iif'apparent 
nature. Men call the circumstance the retribution. The 
causal retribution is in the thing, and is seen by the soul. 
The retribution in the circumstance is seen by the imder- 
tjtanding; it is inseparable from the thing, but is often 
spread over a long time, and so does not become distinct 
until after many years. The specific stripes may follow 
iate after the offence, but they follow because they accom- 



COMPENSATION 183 

pany it. Crime and punishment grow out of one stem. 
Punishment is a fruit that unsuspected ripens within the 
flower of the pleasure which concealed it. Cause and effect, 
means and ends, seed and fruit, cannot be severed; for 
the eff^ already blooms in the cause, the end pre-exists in 
the means, We fnStjn the seed.' ^ 

Whilst thus the world wilLbe whole^and refuses to be 
dis|^arted,_we seek, ta -ftet-partially, to sunder, to appro- 
priate]_for^xamplerdbflugratify_.the senses,^ we ^ever the 
pleasure of the senses from the needs of the character. The 
ingenuity of man has been dedicated "always to the solu- 
tion of one problem, — ho w-to detach the sensual sweet, the 
sen^al strong, the sensual bright, &c., from the moral sweet, 
the morar deep, 'the imoral fair; ffial is, again, to contrive to 
cut clean off this upper surface so thin as to leave it bottom- 
less; to get a. one end,, without an oiber end. The soul says, 
Eat; the body would feast. The soul says. The man and 
woman shall be one flesh and one soul; the body would join 
the flesh only. The soul says, Have dominion over all things 
to the ends of virtue; the body would have the power over 
things to its own ends. 

The soul strives amain to live and work through all 
things. It would be the only fact. All things shall be added 
unto it, — power, pleasure, knowledge, beauty. The par- 
ticular man aims to be somebody; to set up for himself; 
to truck and higgle for a private good; and, in particulars, to 
ride, that he may ride; to dress, that he may be dressed; to 
eat, that he may eat; and to govern, that he may be seen. 
Men seek to be fi;reat! they would have offices, wealth, 
power, and fame. They think that to be great is to get only 
one side of nature — the sweet, without the other side — ^the 
bitter. 

Steadily is this dividing and detaching counteracted. Up 
to this day, it must be owned, no projector has had the 
smallest success. The parted water reunites behind our 
hand. Pleasure is taken out of pleasant things, profit out 
of profitable things, power out of strong things, the moment 
we seek to separate them from the whole. We can no more 
halve things^ and get the sensual good by itself, than w^ can 



u^ 



184 COMPENSATION 

get an inside that shall have no outside, or a light without 
a shadow. "Drive out nature with a fork, she comes run- 
ning back." 

life invests itself with inevitable conditions, which the 
unwise seek to dodge, which one and another brags that 
he does not know; brags that they do not touch him; — 
but the brag is on his hps, the conditions are in his soul. 
If he escapes them in one part, they attack him in another 
more vital part. If he has escaped, them in form ^d in the 
app^rance, it is that he ha& resisted his h f e and fle d from 
himself; and the retribution is so much death. {So^aigna.1. is 
the failure of all attempts to make this reparation of the 
good from the tax, that the experiment would not be tried, — 

since to try it is taha.niad, — ^bjatHTorlEe crrcunjgiance*Jife^ 
when the disease begins in the .will, of rebellion and-separa- 
tion, the intellect is at once infected, so that the man ceases to 
see God whole in each object, but is able to see the sensual 
allurement of an "object, and not see the sensual Jiurt;.. he 
sees the mermaid^s head, but not the dragon's tail; and 
thinks he can cut off that which he would have, from that 
which he would not have. "How secret art thou who dwell- 
est in the highest heavens in silence, thou only great God, 
sprinkling with an unwearied Providence certain penal blind- 
nesses upon such as have unbridled desires!"^ 

The human soul is true to these facts in the painting of 
fable, of history, of law, of projferbs, of conversation. It 
finds a tongue in hterature unawares. Thus the Greeks 
called Jupiter, Supreme Mind; but having traditionally 
ascribed to him many base actions, they involuntarily made 
amends to Reason, by tying up the hands of so bad a gocJT 
He is made as helpless as a king of England. Prometheus 
knows one secret, which Jove must bargain for; Minerva, 
another. He cannot get his own thunders; Minerva keeps 
the key of them. 

"Of all the gods I only know the keys 
That ope the solid doors within whose vaults 
His thunders sleep." 

A plain confession of the in-working of the All, and of its 

1 St. Augustine: Confessions, book i. 



COMPENSATION 186 

moral aim. The Indian mythology ends in the same ethics; 
and indeed 'it would seem impossible for any fable to be in- 
vented and get any currency which was not moral Aurora 
forgot to ask youth for her lover, and so though Tithonus 
is immortal, he is old. Achilles is not quite invulnerable; 
for Thetis held him by the heel when she dipped him in the 
Styx, and the sacred waters did not wash that part. Sieg- 
fried, in the Niebelungen, is not quite immortal, for a leaf 
fell on his back whilst he was bathing in the Dragon's blood, 
and that spot which it covered is mortal. And so it always 
is. There is a crack in every thing God has made. Always, 
it would seem, there is this vindictive circumstance steal- 
ing in at unawares, even into the wild poesy in which the 
human fancy attempted to make bold holyday, and to shake 
itself free of the old laws, — ^this backstroke, this kick of the 
gun, certifying that the law is fatal; that in Nature nothing 
canj^fr giveBj-ftH-^tyngs are sold. ^ 

This is the ancient doctrine of Nemesis, who keeps watch 
in the Universe, and lets no offence go unchastised. The 
Furies, they said, are attendants on Justice, and if the sun 
in heaven ^ould transgress his path, they would punish him. 
The poets related that stone walls, and iron swords, and 
leathern thongs, had an occult sympathy with the wrongs of 
their owners; that the belt which Ajax gave Hector dragged 
the Trojan hero over the field at the wheels of the car of 
Achilles; and the sword which Hector gave Ajax was that on 
whose point Ajax fell. They recorded, that when the 
Thasians erected a statue to Theogenes, a victor in the 
games, one of his rivals went to it by night, and endeavored 
to throw it down by repeated blows, until at last he moved 
it from its pedestal, and was crushed to death beneath its 
faU. 

This voice of fable has in it somewhat divine. It came 
from the thought above the will of the writer. That is the 
best part of each writer which has nothing private in it. 
That is the best part of each which he does not know, that 
which flowed out of his constitution, and not from his too 
active invention; that which in the study of a single artist 
you might not easily find, but in the study of many you 



186 COMPENSATION 

would abstract as the spirit of them all. Phidias it is not, 
but the work of man in that early Hellenic world, that I 
would know. The name and circumstances* of Phidias, how- 
ever convenient for history, embarrasses when we come to 
the highest criticism. We are to see that which man was 
tending to do in a given period, and was hindered, or, if you 
will, modified in doing, by the interfering vohtions of Phidias, 
of Dante, of Shakspeare, the organ whereby man at the 
moment wrought. 

Still moxsi strilking is theexgre^igj3u of this fact in the 
proverbs of all nations, which are always the literature of 
Reason, or the statements of an absolute truth without 
qualification. Proyerbs,_like, the sacred books of each na- 
tion, are the sanctuary of the lutuitic^s. That which the 
droning world, chained to appearances, will not allow the 
realist to say in his own words, it will suffer him to say 
in proverbs without contradiction. And this law of laws, 
which the pulpit, the senate, and the college deny, is hourly 
preached in all markets and all languages by- flights of 
proverbs, whose teaching is as true and as omnipresent as 
that of birds and flies. 

All things are double, one against another. — ^Tit for tat; 
an eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth; blood for blood; 
measure for measure; love for love. — Give, and it shall be 
given you. — ^He that watereth shall be watered himself. — 
What will you have? quoth God; pay for it, and take it. — 
Nothing venture, nothing have. — ^Thou shalt be paid exactly 
for what thou hast done, no more, no less. — ^Who doth not 
work shall not eat. — ^Harm watch, harm catch. — Curses 
always recoil on the head of him who imprecates them. — 
If you put a chain around the neck of a slave, the other end 
fastens itself around your own. — ^Bad counsel confounds 
the adviser. — The devil is an ass. 

It is thus written because it is thus in life. Our fac tion 
is overmastered and characterized above our will by the 
law of nature. We aim at a petty end, quite aside from 
the public good, but our act arranges itself by irresistible 
magnetism in a line with the poles of the world. 

A man cannot speak but he judges himself. With his 



COMPENSATION 187 

will, or against his will, he draws his portrait to the eye of 
his companions by every word. Every opinion reacts on 
him who utters it. It is a threadball thrown at a mark, 
but the other end remains in the thrower's bag. Or rather, 
it is a harpoon thrown at the whale, unwinding, as it flies, a 
coil of cord in the boat; and if the harpoon is noi^ood, or 
not well thrown, it will go nigh to cut the steersman in twain, 
or to sink the boat. 

You cannot do wrong without suffering wrong. "Nojgaan 
had ever a point of pnde fSat - wa a not mf arious to -^im." 
said BurEe! The exclusive in fashionable life does not see 
that he excludes himself from enjoyment, in the attempt to 
appropriate it. The exclusionist in religion does not see 
that he shuts the door of heaven on himself, in striving to 
shut out others. Treat men as pawns and ninepins, and you 
shall siiffer as well as they. If you leave out their heart, 
you shall lose your own. The senses would make things of 
all persons; of women, of children, of the poor. The vulgar 
proverb, "I will get it from his. purse or get it from his skin," 
is souniLphilosophy. 

All infractions of love and equity in our social relations 
are speedily punished. They are punished by Fear. Whilst 
I stand- in simple relations to my fellow man, T have no dis- 
pleasure in meeting him. We meet as water meets water, 
or a current of air meets another, with perfect diffusion and 
interpenetration of nature. But as soon as there is any 
departure from simplicity and attempt at halfness, or good 
for me that is not good for hiin^ my neighbor .ieelg- the 
wrong; he shrinks from uae as far as I have shrunk from 
hm^^his eyes no longer seek mine; there is war between us; 
there is Hafelirhim,-a«<Hear-itt-n!rc: 

All the old^^cbuses insociety, the great and universal, and 
the petty and particular, all unjust accumulations of prop- 
erty and power, are avenged in the same manner. Fear 
is an instructor of great sagacity, and the herald of all jev- 
olutions. One thing he always teaches, that th^rAis 
rottenness where he appears. He is a carrion cro^^«jd 
though you see not well what he hovers for, there is death 
somewhere. Our property is timid, our laws are timid, 



<r. 



188 COMPENSATION 

our cultivated dases are timid. Fear for ages has boded and 
mowed and gibbered over government and property. That 
obscene bird is not there for nothing. He indicates great 
wrongs, which must be revised. 

Of the hke nature is that expectation of change which 
instantly follows the suspension of our voluntary activity. 
The terror of cloudless moon, the emerald of Polycrates, 
the awe of prosperity, the instinct which leads every gen- 
erous soul to impose on itself tasks of a noble asceticism 
and vicarious virtue, are the tremblings of the balance of 
justice through the heart and mind of man. 

Experienced men of the world know very well that it is 
always best to pay scot and lot as they go along, and that 
a man often pays dear for a small frugality. The borrower 
runs in his own debt. Has a man gained any thing who has 
reveived a hundred favors and rendered none ? Has he gained 
by borrowing, through indolence or cunning, his neighbor's 
wares, or horses, or money? There arises on the deed the 
instant acknowledgment of benefit on the one part, and of 
debt on the other; that is, of superiority and inferiority. 
The transaction remains in the memory of himself and his 
neighbor; and every new transaction alters, according to its 
nature, their relation to each other. He may soon come to 
see that he had better have broken his own bones than to 
have ridden in his neighbor's coach, and that "the highest 
price he can pay for a thing is to ask for it.'* 

A wise man will extend this lesson to all parts of life, and 
iknow that it is always the part of prudence to face every 
daimant, and pay every just demand on your time, your 
talents, or your heart. Alwaya^^ay; for, first or last, you 
T^"fft pay yoi^r f^^tire debt. Persons *"aiid'~6vent§ may stand 
for a time between you and justice, but it is only a post- 
ponement. You must pay at last your own debt. If you 
are wise, you will dread a^jrosperity-which only loads you 
with more. Benefit is the end of nature. But for every 
benefit which you receive, a tax is levied. He is great who 
confers the most benefits. ^He is base, — and that is the one 
base thing in the universe, — to receive favors, and render 
none.\ In the order of nature we cannot render benefits to 



s; 



COMPENSATION 189 

those from whom we receive them, or only seldom. But 
the benefit we receive must be rendered again, line for hne, 
deed for deed, cent for cent, to somebody. Beware of too 
much good staying in your hand. It will fast corrupt and 
worm worms. Pay it away quickly in some sort. 

Labor is watched over by the same pitiless laws. ^Cbfi ap- 
est, say the.-prudfintJsJ>e^dea^^^ What we buy in 

a broom, a mat, a wagon, a knife, is some application of good 
sense to a common want. It is best to pay in ^ur land 
a skilful gardener, or to buy good sense applied tjip garden- 
ing; in your sailor, good sense applied to navigation; in the 
house, good sense applied to cooking, sewing, $c«rving; in 
your agent, good sense applied to accounts and pfairs. So 
do you multiply your presence, or spread yourself through- 
out your estate. But because of the dual constitution of 
all things, in labor as in life th.Qie can be no cheating. The 
thief steals from himself. The swindler swindles himself. 
For the. real price of labor is knowledge and virtue, whereof 
wealth and credit are signs. These signs, like paper-money, 
may be counterfeited or stolen, but that which they rep- 
resent, namely, knowledge and virtue, cannot be counter- 
feited or stolen. These ends of labor cannot be answered 
but by real exertions of the mind, and in obedience to pure 
motives. The cheat, the defaulter, the gambler, cannot ex- 
tort the benefit, cannot extort the knowledge of material and 
moral nature, which his honest care and pains yield to the 
operative. The law of nature is. Do the thing, and you shall 
have the power: but they who do not the thing have not the 
power. 

Human labor, through all its forms, from the sharpening 
of a stake to the construction of a city or an epic, is one im- 
mense illustration of the perfect compensation of the uni- 
verse. Every where and always this law i^^ sublime. The 
absolute balance -oLGiye. and Take, the doctrine .that every 
thing has its price; and if that price is not paid, not that 
thing, but something else, 19 obtained, and that it is im- 
possible to get any thing without its price, — ^this doctrine is 
not less sublime tnthe~cohimns of a ledger than in the bud- 
gets of states, in the laws of hght and darkness, in all the 



190 COMPENSATION 

action and reaction of nature. I cannot doubt that the hi^ 
laws which each man sees ever implicated in those processes 
with which he is conversant, the stern ethics which sparkle* 
on his chisel-edge, which are measured out by his plumb and 
foot-rule, which stand as manifest in the footing of the shop 
bill as in the history of a state, — do recommend to him his 
trade, and, though seldom named, exalt his business to hia 
imagination. 

The league between virtue and nature engages all things 
to assume a hostile front to vice. The beautiful laws and 
substances of the world persecute and whip the traitor. He . 
finds that things are arranged for truth and Benefit, but there 
is no den in the wide world to hide a rogue. There is no 
such thing as concealment. Conm[ut a crime, and the earth 
is made of glass. Commit a crime, and it seems as if a coat 
of snow fell on the ground, such as reveals in the woods 
the track of every partridge and fox and squirrel and mo'e. . 
You cannot recall the spoken word, you cannot wipe out the 
foot-track, you cannot draw up the ladder, so as to leave no ^ 
inlet or clew. Always some damning circumstance trans- " 
pires. The laws and substances of nature, water, snow, 
wind, gravitation, become penalties to the, thief. 

On the other hand, the law holds with equal sureness for 
all right action. Love, and you shall, be loved. All love is 
mathematically just, as much as the two sides of an alge- 
braic equation. The good man has absolute good, which like 
fire turns every thing to its own nature, so that you cannot 
do him any harm; but as the royal armies sent against NaxK)- 
leon, when he approached, cast down their colors, and from 
enemies became friends, so do disasters of all kinds, as sick- 
ness, offence, poverty, prove benefactors. 

"Winds blow and waters roll 
Strength to the brave, and power and deity, 
Yet in themselves are nothing." 

The good are befriended even by weakness and defect. As 
no man had ever a jwint of pride that was not injurious to 
him, so no man had ever a defect that was not somewhere 
made useful to him. The stag in the fable admired his 



COMPENSATION 191 

horns and blamed his feet; but when the hunter came, his 
feet saved him, and afterwards, caught in the thicket, his 
toms destroyed him. Every man in his liffitim^ pfiftda to 
thf^nk hiff faults. As no man thoroughly imderstands a 
truth until first he has contended against it, so no man has a 
thorough acquaintance with the hinderances or talents of 
men, until he has suffered from the one, and seen the triumph 
of the other over his own want of the same. Has he a de- 
fect of temper that unfits him to live in society? Thereby 
he is driven to entertain himself alone, and acquire habits 
of self-help; an4^ thus, like the wounded oyster, he mends 
his shell with pearl. 

Our stigngih^Qws out of our weakness. Not untU we are 
pricked and stimg and sorely shot at, awakens the indignation 
which arms itself with secret forces. A great man is always V, 
willing to be littlfia Whilst he sits on tbe cushion of advan- 
tages, he goes to sleep. When he is pushed, tormented, de- 
feated, he has a chance to learn something; he has been put 
'on his wits, on his manhood; he has gained facts; learns his 
'^ignorance; is cured of the insanity of conceit; has got moder- 
ation and real skill. The wise man always throws himself 
on the side of his assailants. It is more his interest than 
it is theirs to find his weak point. The wound cicatrizes 
and falls off from him, like a dead skin; and when they 
would triumph, lo! he has passed on invulnerable. Blame 
is safer than praise. I hate to be defended in a newspaper. 
As long as all that is said, is said against me, I Ipel a certain 
assurance of success. But as soon as honied worids of praise 
are spoken for me, I feel as one that lies unprotected before 
his enemies. In general, every ^vil tn yrh\oh wa f^ o ngX suc- 
<nimb ia a benefactor. As thft Sandwifih Islander believes 
that the strength and valor of the enemy he kills passes into 
himself, so we gain the strength of the temptation we resist. 

The same guards which protect us from disaster, defect, 
and enmity, defend us, if we will, from selfishness and fraud. 
Bolts and bars are not the best of our institutions, nor is 
shrewdness in trade a mark of wisdom. Men suffer all 
their life long under the foolish superstition that they can be 
cheated. But it is as impossible for a man to be cheated by 



> 



\ 



192 COMPENSATION 

anyone but himself, as for a thing to be and not to be at the 
same time. There is a third silent party to all our bargains. 
The nature and soul of things takes on itself the guaranty of 
the fulfilment of every contract, so that honest service can- 
not come to a loss. If you serve an ungrateful master, serve 
him the more. Put God in your debt. Every stroke shall 
be repaid. The longer the payment iswithholden, the better 
for you; for compound interest on compoimd interest is the 
rate and usage of this exchequer. 

The history of persecution is a history of endeavors to 
cheat nature, to make water nm up hill, to twist a rope of 
sand. It makes no difference whether the actors be many or 
y one, a tyrant or a mob. A mob is a society of bodies vol- 
untarily bereaving themselves of reason and traversing its 
work. The mob is nia n volun ta^rily descending, to the nature 
of the beastj Tts fit hour of activity is night. Its actioriT* 
ire insane, like its whole constitution. It persecutes a prin- 
ciple; it would whip a right; it would tar and feather jus- 
tice, by inflicting fire and outrage upon houses and persons of 
those who have these. It resembles the prank of boys who 
run with fire-engines to put out the ruddy aurora streaming 
to the stars. The inviolate spirit turns their spite against 
the wrong-doers. The martyr cannot be dishonored. Every 
lash inflicted is a tongue of fame; every prison a more 
illustrious abode; every burned book or house enlightens the 
world; every suppressed or expunged word reverberates 
through the earth from side to side. The minds of men are 
at last aroused; reason looks out and justifies her own^ and 
malice finds all her work vain. It is the whipper who is 
whipped, and the tyrant who is undone. 

Thus do all things preach the indifferency of circumstances. 
The man is all. Every thing has two sides, a good and an 
evil._ Every advantage kas its tax. J. learn to be content. 
But the doctrine of compensation is not the doctrine of in- 
differency. The thoughtless say, on hearing these repre- 
sentations: What boots it to do well? there is one event to 
good and evil: if I gain any good, I must pay for it; if I 
lose any good, I gain some other; all actions are indifferent. 



COMPENSATION 193 

 ' » 

There is a deeper fact in the soul than compensation; 
to wit, its own nature. The soul is not a compensation, but > 
a life. The soul is. Under all this running sea of circum- V 
stance, whose waters ebb and flow with perfect balance, lies 
the aboriginal abyss of real Being. Existence, or God, is not*^ 
a relation, or a part, but the whole. Being is the vast affirm- 
ative, excluding negation, self-balanced, and swallowing up 
all relations, parts, and times, within itself. Nature, truth, >^ 
virtue, are the influx from thence. Vice is the absence or^ 
departure of the same. Nothing, Falsehood, may indeed 
stand as the great Night or shade, on which, as a background, 
the living universe paints itself forth; but no fact is begotten 
by it; it cannot work; for it is not. It cannot work any 
good; it cannot work any harm. It is harm, inasmuch as 
it is worse not to be than to be. 

We feel defrauded of the retribution due to evil acts, 
because the criminal adheres to his vice and contumacy, and 
does not come to a crisis or judgment anywhere in visible 
nature. There is no stunning confutation of his nonsense 
before men and angels. Has he therefore outwitted the 
law? Inasmuch as he carries the malignity and the lie 
with him, he so far deceases from nature. In some manner 
there will be a demonstration of the wrong to the imder- 
standing also; but should we not see it, this deadly deduc- 
tion makes square tjie eternal account. 

Neither can it be said, on the other hand, that the gain 
of rectitude must be bought by any loss. There is no pen- 
alty to virtue; no penalty to wisdom; they are proper ad- " 
ditions of being. In a virtuous action, I properly am; in a 
virtuous act, I add to the world; I plant into deserts con- 
quered from Chaos and Nothing, and see the darkness re- 
ceding on the limits of the horizon. There can be no ex- 
cess to love, none to knowledge, none to beauty, when these 
attributes are considered in the purest sense. The soul re- 
fuses all limits. It affirms in man always an Optimism, 
never a Pessimism. 

His life is a progress, and not a station. His instinct is , 
trust. Our instinct uses "more" and "less" in application to 
man, always of the presence of the soiU, and not of 1+9 ab- 



194 COMPENSATION 

sence: the brave man is greater than the coward; the true, 
the benevolent, the wise, is more a man, and not less, than 
the fool and knave. There is, therefore, no tax on the good 
of virtue; for that is the incoming of God himself, or ab- 
solute existence, without any comparative. All external 
good has its tax; and if it came without desert or sweat, 
has no root in me, and the next wind will blow it away. 
JBut all the good of nature is the soul's, and may be had, if 
paid for in nature's lawful coin, that is, by labor, which the 
heart and the head allow. I no longer wish to meet a good 
I do not earn — for example, to find a pot of buried gold — 
knowing that it brings with it new responsibiUty. I do not 
wish more external goods, — ^neither possessions, nor honors, 
nor powers, nor persons. The gain is apparent, the tax is 
certain. But there is no tax on the knowledge that the 
compensation exists, and that it is not desirable to dig up 
treasure. Herein I rejoice with a serene eternal peace. I 
contract the boundaries of possible mischief. I learn the 
wisdom of St. Bernard: "Nothing can work me damage ex- 
cept myself; the harm that I sustain, I carry about with me, 
and never am a real sufferer but by my own fault." 

In the nature of the soul is the compensation for the in- 
equalities of condition. The radical tragedy of nature seems 
to be the distinction of More and Less. How can Less not 
feel the pain; how not feel indignation or malevolence to- 
wards More? Look at those who have less faculty, and one 
feels sad) and knows not well what to make of it. Almost 
he shuns their eye; almost he fears they will upbraid God. 
What should they do? It seems a great injustice. But 
face the facts, and see them nearly, and the moimtainous 
inequalities vanish. (iOve reduces them all, as the sun melts 
the iceberg in the sea. The heart and soul of all* men being 
one, this bitterness of His and Mine ceases. His is mine. I 
am my brother, and my brother is me. If I feel overshad- 
owed and outdone by great neighbors, I can yet love; I can 
still receive; and he that loveth maketh his own the grandeur 
he loves. Thereby I make the discovery that my brother 
is my guardian, acting for me with the friendliest designs, 
and the estate I so admired and envied is my own. It is the 



COMPENSATION 195 

eternal nature of the soul to appropriate and make all things 
its own. Jesus and Shakspeare are fragments of the soul, 
and by love I conquer and incorporate them in my own con- 
scious domain. His virtue,— is not that mine? His wit,— 
if it cannot be made mine, it is not wit. 

Such, also, is the natural history of calamity. The changes 
which break up at short intervals the prosperity of men 
are advertisements of a nature whose law is growth. Ever- ^ 
more it is the order. olmtUieJU) grow, and every soul is by 
this intrinsic necessity quitting its whole system of things, 
its friends, and home, and laws, and faith, as the shell-fish 
crawls out of its beautiful but stony case, because it no 
longer admits of its growth, and slowly forms a new house. 
In proportion to the vigor of the individual, these revolu- 
tions are frequent, until in some happier mind they are in- 
cessant, and all worldly relations hang very loosely about 
him, becoming, as it were, a transparent fluid membrane 
through which the form is always seen, and not, as in most 
men, an indurated heterogenous fabric of many dates, and 
of no settled character, in which the man is imprisoned. 
Then there can be enlargement, and the man of to-day 
scarcely recognizes the man of yesterday. And such should 
be the outward biography of man in time, — a putting off of 
dead circumstances day by day, as he renews his raiment 
day by day. But to us, in our lapsed estate, resting not 
advancing, resisting not co-operating with the divine ex-/ 
pansion, this growth comes by shocks. / 

We cannot part with our friends. We cannot let our 
angels go. We do not see that they only go out that arch- 
angels may come in. We are idolaters of the Old. We do 
not beUeve in the riches of the soul, in its proper eternity 
and omnipresence. We do not believe there is any force in 
to-day to rival or re-create that beautiful yesterday. We 
linger in the ruins of the old tent, where once we had bread 
and shelter and organs, nor beUeve that the spirit can feed, 
cover, and nerve us again. But we sit and weep in vain. 
The voice of the Almighty saith, "Up and onward for ever- 
more!" W© cannot stay aijftid the ruins. Neither will we 



196 COMPENSATION 

rely on the New: and so we walk ever with reverted eyes, 
like those monsters who look backwards, 

And yet the compensations of calamity are made appar- 
ent to the imderstanding also, after long intervals of time. 
A fever, a mutilation, a cruel disappointment, a loss of 
wealth, a loss of friends, seems at the moment impaid loss, 
and unpayable. But the sure years reveal the deep remedial 
force that underhes all facts. The death of a dear friend, 
wife, brother, lover, which seemed nothing but privation, 
somewhat later assumes the aspect of a guide or genius; for 
it commonly operates isigol tttiona in our way of Ufe, termi- 
nates an epoch of infancy -or oLyouth which, was waiting to 
be closed, breaks up a wo.nted.o£Cupati<»,'Or.. a. household, or 
style of living, and allows the formation of new ones more 
friendly to the g r o w th- t rf -ebaiacter. It permits or constrains 
the formation of new acquaintances, and the reception of 
new influences, that prove of the first importance to the 
next years; and the man or woman who would have re- 
mained a sunny garden-flower, with no room for its roots, 
and too much sunshine' for its head, by the falling of the 
walls and the neglect of the gardener, is made the banian of 
the forest, yielding shade and fruit to wide neighborhoods of 
men. 



IX 

HEROISM 

''Paradise is under the shadow of swords." 

Mohamet. 

In the elder English dramatists, and mainly in the plays 
of Beaumont and Fletcher, there is a constant recognition of 
gentility, as if a noble behavior were as easily marked in the 
society of their age, as color is in our American population. 
When any Rodrigo, Pedro, or Valerio enters, though he be 
a stranger, the duke or governor exclaims. This is a gentle- 
man, — ^and proffers civilities without end; but all the rest 
are slag and refuse. In harmony with this dehght in per- 
sonal advantages, there is in their plays a certain heroic cast 
of character and dialogue, — as in Bonduca,' Sophocles, the 
Mad Lover, the Double Marriage, — wherein the speaker is 
so earnest and cordial, and on such deep grounds of char- 
acter, that the dialogue, on the shghtest additional incident 
in the plot, rises naturally into poetry. Among many texts, 
take the following. The Roman Martins has conquered 
Athens, — all but the invincible spirits of Sophocles the duke 
of Athens, and Dorigen his wife. The beauty of the latter 
inflames Martins, and he seeks to save her husband; but 
Sophocles will not ask his life, although assured that a word 
will save him, and the execution of both proceeds. 

"Valerius. Bid thy wife farewell. 

Soph. No, I will take no leave. My Dorigen, 
Yonder above, 'bout Ariadne's crown, 
My spirit shall hover for thee. Prithee, haste« 

Dor. Stay, Sophocles, — with this tie up my sight; 
Let not soft nature so transformed be. 
And lose her gentler-sexed humanity, 
To make me see my lord bleed. So, 'tis weU; 
Never one object underneath the sun 

197 



igg HEROISM 

Will I behold before my Sophocles. 
Farewell: now teach the Romans how to die. 

Mar, Dost know what 'tis to die? 

Soj^, Thou dost not, Martius, 
And therefore not what 'tis to live. To die 
Is to begin to live; it is to end 
An old, stale, weary work, and to oommenoe 
A newer and a better; 'tis to leave 
Deceitful knaves for the society 
Of gods and goodness. Thou thyself must part 
At last from all thy garlands, pleasures, triumphs. 
And prove thy fortitude what then 'twill do. 

Vol. But art not grieved nor vexed to leave thy life thus? 

Sopk. Why should I grieve or vex for being sent 
To them I ever loved best? Now, I'll kneel. 
But with my back toward thee; 'tis the last duty 
This trunk can do the gods. 

Mcar. Strike, strike, Valerius, 
Or Martius' heart will leap out at his mouth: 
Thia is a man, a woman! Kiss thy lord. 
And live with all the freedom you were wont. 

love! thou doubly hast afflicted me 

With virtue and with beauty. Treacherous heart, 
My hand shall cast thee quick into my urn, 
Ere thou transgress this knot of piety. 

Vol. What ails my brother? 

SoTph, Martius, O Martius, 
Thou now hast found a way to conquer me. 

Dot, O star of Rome! what gratitude can speak 
Fit words to follow such a deed as this? 

Mar, This admirable duke, Valerius, 
With his disdain of fortime and of death, 
Captived himself, has captivated me. 
And though my arm hath ta'en his body here, 
His soul hath subjugated Martius' soul. 
By Romulus, he is all soul, I think; 
He hath no flesh, and spirit cannot be gyved. 
Then we have vanquished nothing; he is free. 
And Martius walks now in captivity." 

1 do not readily remember any poem, play, sermon, novel, 
or oration, that our press vents in the last few years, which 
goes to the same tune. We have a great many flutes and 
flageolets, but not often the sound of any fife. Yet Words- 
worth's Laodamia, and the ode of "Dion," and some sonnets, 
have a certain noble music; and Scott will sometimes draw a 
stroke like the portrait of Lord Evandale, given by Balfour 



' 



HEROISM 199 

of Burley. Thomas Carlyle, with his natural taste for 
what is manly and daring in character, has suffered no heroic 
trait in his favorites to drop from his biographical and his- 
torical pictures. EarUer, Robert Burns has' given us a song 
or two. In the Harleian Miscellanies there is an account 
of the battle of Lutzen, which deserves to be read. And 
Simon Ockley's History of the Saracens recounts the prodi- 
gies of individual valor with admiration, all the more evi- 
dent on the part of the narrator, that he seems to think that 
his place in Christian Oxford requires of him some proper 
protestations of abhorrence. But if we explore the liter- 
ature of Heroism, we shall quickly come to Plutarch, who is 
its doctor and historian. To him we owe the Brasidas, the 
Dion, the Epaminondas, the Scipio of old; and I must think 
we are more deeply indebted to him than to all the ancient 
writers. Each of his 'Tjives" is a refutation to the des- 
pondency and cowardice of our reUgious and political the- 
orists. A wild courage, a stoicism not of the schools, but of 
the blood, shines in every anecdote, and has given that book 
its immense fame. 

We need books of this tart cathartic virtue, more than 
books of poUtical science or of private economy. Life is a 
festival only to the wise. Seen from the nook and chimney- 
side of prudence, it wears a ragged and dangerous front. 
The violations of the laws of nature by our predecessors and 
our contemporaries are punished in us also. The disease and 
deformity around us certify the infraction of natural, intel- 
lectual, and moral laws, and often violation on violation to 
breed such compound misery. A lock-jaw, that bends a 
man's head back to his heels; hydrophobia, that makes him 
bark at his wife and babes; insanity, that makes him eat 
grass; war, plague, cholera, famine, — indicate a certain fe- 
rocity in nature, which, as it had its inlet by human crime, 
must have its outlet by human suflFering. Unhappily, al- 
most no man exists who has not in his own person become, 
to some amount, a stockholder in the sin, and so made him- 
self liable to a share in the expiation. 

Our culture, therefore, must not omit the arming of our 
man. Let him bear in season, that he is born into the state 



). 



200 HEROISM 

of war, and that the commonwealth and his own well-being 
require that he should not go dancing in the weeds of peB.ce; 
but warned, self-collected, and neither defying nor dreading 
the thunder, let him take both reputation and life in his 
hand, and with perfect urbanity dare the gibbet and the mob 
by the absolute truth of his speech and the rectitude of his 
behavior. 

Towards all this external evil the man within the breast 
assmnes a warlike attitude, and affirms his ability to cope 
^single-handed with the iniflinite army of enemies. To this 
military attitude of the soul we give the name of Heroism. 
Its rudest form is the contempt for safety and ease, which 
makes the attractiveness of war. It is a self-trust which 
slights the restraints of prudence, in the plenitude of its en- 
ergy and power to repair the harms it may suffer . The hero 
is a mind of such balance that no disturbances can shake his 
will; but pleasantly, and as it were merrily, he advances to his 
own music, alike in frightful alarms and in the tipsy mirth of 
universal dissoluteness. There is somewhat not philosoph- 
ical in heroism; there is somewhat not holy in it; it seems 
not to know that other souls are of one texture with it; it 
hath pride; it is the extreme of individual nature. Neverthe- 
less we must profoundly revere it. There is somewhat in 
great actions, which does not allow us to go behind them. 

^ Heroism feels and never reasons, and therefore is always 
right; and although a different breeding, different religion, 
and greater intellectual activity, would have modified or 
even reversed the particular action, yet for the hero, that 
thing he does is the highest deed, and is not open to the cen- 
sure of philosophers or divines. It is the avowal of the un- 
schooled man, that he finds a quality in him that is neg- 
ligent of expense, of health, of life, of danger, of hatred, of 
reproach, and that he knows that his will is higher and more 
excellent than all actual and all possible antagonists. 

Heroism works in contradiction to the voice of mankind, 
and in contradiction, for a time, to the voice of the great and 
good. Heroism is an obedience to a secret impulse of an in- 

V dividual's character. Now to no other man can its wisdom 
appear as it does to him, for every man must be supposed 



HEROISM 201 

to see a little farther on his own proper path than any. one 
else. Therefore, just and wise men take umbrage at his 
act, until after some Httle time be past; then they see it to 
be in unison with their acts. All prudent men see that the 
action is clean contrary to a sensual prosperity; for every 
heroic act measures itself by its contempt of some external 
good. But it finds its own success at last, and then the pru- 
dent also extol. 

Self-trust is the essence of Heroism. It is the state of the 
soul at war; and its ultimate objects are the last defiance of 
falsehood and wrong, and the power to bear all that can be 
inflicted by evil agents. It speaks the truth, and it is just. 
It is generous, hospitable, temperate, scornful of petty cal- 
culations, and scornful of being scorned. It persists; it is 
of an undaunted boldness, and of a fortitude not to be wea- 
ried out. Its jest is the littleness of common life. That 
false prudence which dotes on health and wealth is the foil, 
the butt and merriment of heroism. Heroism, like Plotinus, 
is almost ashamed of its body. What shall it say, then, to 
the sugar-plums and cat's-cradles, to the toilet, compliments, 
quarrels, cards, and custard, which rack the wit of all human 
society? What joys has kind nature provided for us dear 
creatures! There seems to be no interval between greatness 
and meanness. When the spirit is not master of the world, then 
it is its dupe. Yet the little man takes the great hoax so 
innocently, works in it so headlong and believing, is bom red, 
and dies gray, arranging his toilet, attending on his own 
health, laying traps for sweet food and strong wine, setting 
his heart on a horse or a rifle, made happy with a little gos- 
sip or a little praise, that the great soul cannot choose but 
laugh at such earnest nonsense. "Indeed, these humble con- 
siderations make me out of love with greatness. What a 
disgrace is it to me to take note how many pairs of silk 
stockings thou hast, namely, these and those that were the 
peach-colored ones; or to bear the inventory of thy shirts, as 
one for superfluity, and one other for use!" 

Citizens, thinking after the laws of arithmetic, consider 
the inconvenience of receiving strangers at their fireside, 
reckon narrowly the loss of time and the unusual display: 



202 HEROISM 

the soul of a better quality thrusts back the unseasonable 
economy into the vaults of life, and says, I will obey the God, 
and the sacrifice and the fire he will provide. Ibn Haukal, 
the Arabian geographer, describes a heroic extreme in the 
hospitahty of Sogd, in Bukharia. "When I was in Sogd, 
I saw a great building, like a palace, the gates of which were 
open and fixed back to the wall with large nails. I asked 
the reason, and was told that the house had not been shut 
night or day, for a hundred years. Strangers may pre- 
sent themselves at any hour, and in whatever number; the 
master has amply provided for the reception of the men and 
their animals, and is never happier than when they tarry for 
some time. Nothing of the kind have I seen in any other 
country." The magnanimous know very well, that they 
who give time, or money, or shelter to the stranger — so it 
be done for love, and not for ostentation — do as it were put 
God under obligation to them, so perfect are the compensa- 
tions of the universe. In some way, the time they seem to 
lose is redeemed, and the pains they seem to take remimerate 
themselves. These men fan the flame of hiiman love, and 
raise the standard of civil virtue among mankind. But hos- 
pitality must be for service, and not for show, or it pulls 
down the host. The brave soul rates itself too high to 
value itself by the splendor of its table and draperies. It 
gives what it hath, and all it hath; but its own majesty can 
lend a better grace to bannocks and fair water than belong 
to city feasts. 

The temperance of the hero proceeds from the same wish 
to do no dishonor to the worthiness he has. But he loves 
it for its elegancy, not for its austerity. It seems not worth 
his while to be solemn, and denounce with bitterness flesh- 
eating or wine-drinking, the use of tobacco, or opium, or 
tea, or silk, or gold. A great man scarcely knows how he 
dines, how he dresses; but, without railing or precision, his 
living is natural and poetic. John Eliot, the Indian Apostle, 
drank water, and said of wine, "It is a noble, generous liquor, 
and we should be humbly thankful for it; but, as I remem- 
ber, water was made before it." Better still is the temper- 
ance of king David, who poured out on the ground unto the 



HEROISM 203 

Lord the water which three of his warriors had brought him 
to drink at the peril of their Uves. 

It is told of Brutus, that when he fell on his sword, after 
the battle of Philippi, he quoted a line of Euripides, "0 vir- 
tue, I have followed thee through life, and I find thee at last 
but a shade/' I doubt not the hero is slandered by this re- 
port. The heroic soul does not sell its justice and its nobleness. 
It does not ask to dine nicely and to sleep warm. The essence 
of greatness is the perception that virtue is enough. Pov- 
erty is its ornament. Plenty it does not need, and can 
very well abide its loss. 

But that which takes my fancy most, in the heroic class, 
is the good humor and hilarity they exhibit. It is a height 
to which conmion duty can very well attain, to suffer and 
to dare with solenmity. But these rare souls set opinion, 
success, and life, at so cheap a rate, that they will not soothe 
their enemies by petitions, or the show of sorrow, but wear 
their own habitual greatness. Scipio, charged with pecu- 
lation, refuses to do himself so great a disgrace as to wait for 
justification, though he had the scroll of his accounts in his 
hands, but tears it to pieces before the tribunes. Socrates' 
condenmation of himself to be maintained in all honor in 
the Prytaneum during his life, and Sir Thomas More's play- 
fulness at the scaffold, are of the same strain. In Beaumont 
and Fletcher's "Sea Voyage," Juletta tells the stout captain 
and his company, 

"JtU. Why, slaves, 'tis in our power to hang ye. 
Master , Very likely; 

*Tia in our powers, then, to be hanged, and soom ye." 

These replies are sound and whole. Sport is the bloom and 
glow of a perfect health. The great will not condescend to 
take anything seriously; all must be as gay as the song of a 
canary, though it were the building of cities, or the eradi- 
cation of old and foolish churches and nations, which have 
cumbered the earth long thousands of years. Simple hearts 
put all the history and customs of this world behind them, 
and play their own play in innocent defiance of the Blue- 
Laws of the world; and such would appear, could we see the 



204 HEROISM 

human race assembled in vision, like little children frolick- 
ing together; though, to the eyes of mankind at large, they 
wear a stately and solemn garb of works and influences. 

The interest these fine stories have for us, the power of a 
romance over the boy who grasps the forbidden book under 
his bench at school, our delight in the hero, is the main fact to 
our purpose. All these great and transcendent properties 
are ours. If we dilate in beholding the Greek energy, the 
Roman pride, it is that we are already domesticating the 
same sentiment. Let us find room for this great guest in our 
small houses. The first step of worthiness will be to dis- 
abuse us of our superstitious associations with places and 
times, with number and size. Why should these words, 
Athenian, Roman, Asia, and England, so tingle in the ear? 
Let us feel that where the heart is, there the muses, there 
the gods sojourn, and not in any geography of fame. Massa- 
chusetts, Connecticut River, and Boston Bay, you think 
paltry places, and the ear loves names of foreign and classic 
topography. But here we are; — ^that is a great fact, and, if 
we will tarry a little, we may come to learn thq,t here is best. 
See to it, only that thyself is here; — and art and nature, hope 
and dread, friends, angels, and the Supreme Being, shall not 
be absent from the chamber where thou sittest. Epami- 
nondas, brave and affectionate, does not seem to us to need 
Olympus to die upon, nor the Syrian sunshine. He lies very 
well where he is. The Jerseys were handsome ground 
enough for Washington to tread, and London streets for 
the feet of Milton. A great man illustrates his place, makes 
his climate genial in the imagination of men, and its air the 
beloved element of all delicate spirits. That country is the 
fairest which is inhabited by the noblest minds. The pict- 
ures which fill the imagination in reading the actions of Per- 
icles, Xenophon, Columbus, Bayard, Sidney, Hampden, teach 
us how needlessly mean our life is; that we, by the depth of 
our living, should deck it with more than regal or national 
splendor, and act on principles that should interest man and 
nature in the length of our days. 

We have seen or heard of many extraordinary young men 
who never ripened, or whose performance in actual fife was 



HEROISM 205 

not extraordinary. When we see their air and mien, when 
we hear them speak of society, of books, of religion, we ad- 
mire their superiority, they seem to throw contempt on the 
whole state of the world; theirs is the tone of a youthful 
giant, who is sent to work revolutions. But they enter an 
active profession, and the forming Colossus shrinks to the 
common size of man. The magic they used was the ideal ten- 
dencies, which always make the Actual ridiculous; but the 
tough world had its revenge the moment they put their horses 
of the sun to plough in its furrow. They found no example 
and no companion, and their heart fainted. What then? 
The lesson they gave in their first aspirations is yet true; 
and a better valor and a purer truth shall one day execute 
their will, and put the world to shame. Or why should a 
woman liken herself to any historical woman, and think, 
because Sappho, or Sevigne, or De Stael, or the cloistered 
souls who have had genius and cultivation, do not satisfy the 
imagination and the serene Themis, none can, — certainly not 
she? Why not? She has a new and unattempted prob- 
lem to solve, i)erchance that of the happiest nature that 
ever bloomed. Let the maiden with erect soul walk serenely 
on her way, accept the hint of each new experience, try, in 
turn, all the gifts God offers her, that she may learn the 
power and the charm that, like a new dawn radiating out of 
the deep of space, her new-bom being is. The fair girl, who 
repels interference by a decided and proud choice of in- 
fluences, so careless of pleasing, so wilful and lofty, in- 
spires every beholder with somewhat of her own nobleness. 
The silent heart encourages her; friend, never strike sail 
to a fear. Come into port greatly, or sail with God the 
seas. Not in vain yo x hve, for every passing eye is cheered 
and refined by the vision. 

The characteristic of a genuine heroism is its persistency. 
All men have wandering impulses, fits and starts of gener- 
osity. But when you have resolved to be great, abide by 
yourself, and do not weakly try to reconcile yourself with the 
world. The heroic cannot be the common, nor the conmion 
the heroic. Yet we have the weakness to expect the sjonpathy 
of people in those actions whose excellence is, that they out- 



v/ 



206 HEROISM 

run sympathy, and appeal to a tardy justice. If you would 
serve your brother, because it is fit for you to serve him, do 
not take back your words when you find that prudent people 
do not commend you. Be true to your own act, and con- 
gratulate yourself if you have done something strange and 
extravagant, and broken the monotony of a decorous age. 
It was a high counsel that I once heard ^ven to a young 
person, "Always do what you are afraid to do." A simple 
manly character need never make an apology, but should 
regard its past action with the calmness of Phocion, when he 
admitted that the event of the battle was happy, yet did 
not regret his dissuasion from the battle. 

There is no weakness or exposure for which we cannot 
find consolation in the thought, — ^this is a part of my con- 
stitution, part of my relation and office to my fellow-creat- 
ure. Has nature covenanted with me that I should never 
appear to disadvantage, never make a ridiculous figure? 
Let us be generous of our dignity, as well as of our money. 
Greatness once and forever has done with opinion. We tell 
our charities, not because we wish to be praised for them, 
not because we think they have great merit, but for our jus- 
tification. It is a capital blunder; as you discover, when an- 
other man recites his charities. 
/ To speak the truth even with some austerity, to live with 
^ some rigor of temperance or some extremes of generosity, 
seems to be an asceticism which common good nature would 
appoint to those who are at ease and in plenty, in sign that 
they feel a brotherhood with the great multitude of suffer- 
ing men. And not only need we breathe and exercise the 
soul by assuming the penalties of abstinence, of debt, of soli- 
tude, of unpopularity, but it behoves the wise man to look 
with a bold eye into those rarer dangers which sometimes in- 
vade men, and to familiarize himself with disgusting forms* 
of disease, with sounds of execration, and the vision of violent' 
death. 

Times of heroism are generally times of terror; but the 
day never shines in which this element may not work. 
The circumstances of man, we say, are historically somewhat 
better m tjiig cpuntry, and at this hour, than perhaps ever 



HEROISM 207 

before. More freedom exists for culture. It will not now 
rtm against an axe at the first step out of the beaten track 
of opinion. But whoso is heroic will always find crises to 
try his edge. Human virtue demands her champions and 
martyrs, and the trial of persecution always proceeds. It 
is but the other day that the brave Lovejoy gave his breast 
to the bullets of a mob for the rights of free speech and 
opinion, and died when it was better not to live. 

I see not any road of perfect peace which a man can 
walk, but to take counsel of his own bosom. Let him quit 
too much association; let him go home much, and stablish 
himself in those courses he approves. The unremitting re- 
tention of simple and high sentiments in obscure duties is 
hardening the character to that temper which will work 
with honor, if need be, in the tumult or on the scaffold. 
Whatever outrages have happened to men may befall a man 
again; and very easily in a republic, if there appear any signs 
of a decay of religion. Coarse slander, fire, tar and feathers, 
and the gibbet, the youth may freely bring home to his mind, 
and with what sweetness of temper he can, and inquire how 
fast he can fix his sense of duty, braving such penalties, 
whenever it may please the next newspaper, and a sufficient 
number of his neighbors, to pronounce his opinions incen- 
diary. 

It may calm the apprehension of calamity in the most 
susceptible heart, to see how quick a bound nature has set 
to the utmost infliction of malice. We rapidly approach a 
brink over which no enemy can follow us. 

'*Let them rave: 
Thou art quiet in thy grave." 

In the gloom of our ignorance of what shall be in the hour 
when we are deaf to the higher voices, who does not envy 
them who have seen safely to an end their manful endeavor? 
Who that sees the meanness of our politics, but inly con- 
gratulates Washington that he is long already wrapped in his 
shroud, and forever safe; that he was laid sweet in his grave, 
the hope of humanity not yet subjugated in him? Who 
doM not sometimes envy the good and brave, who are no 



208 HEROISM 

more to suffer from the tumults of the natural world, and 
await with curious complacency the speedy term of his own 
conversation with finite nature? And yet the love that 
will be annihilated sooner than treacherous, has already 
made death impossible, and affirms itself no mortal, but a 
native of the deeps of absolute and inextinguishable being. 



FRIENDSHIP 

We have a great deal more kindness than is ever spoken. 
Maugre all the selfishness that chills like east winds the 
world, the whole human family is bathed with an element of 
love like a fine ether. How many persons we meet in houses, 
whom we scarcely speak to, whom yet we honor, and who 
honor us! How many we see in the street, or sit with in 
church, whom, though silently, we warmly rejoice to be with! 
Bead the language of these wandering eye-beams. The 
heart knoweth. 

The effect of the indulgence of this human affection is 
a certain cordial exhilaration. In poetry and in common 
speech, the emotions of benevolence and complacency which 
are felt towards others are likened to the material effects of 
fire; so swift, or much more swift, more active, more cheer- 
ing, are these fine inward irradiations. From the highest 
degree of passionate love, to the lowest degree of good will, 
they make the sweetness of life. 

Our intellectual and active powers increase with our af- 
fection. The scholar sits down to write, and all his years of 
meditation do not furnish him with one good thought or 
happy expression; but it is necessary to write a letter to a 
friend, — and forthwith troops of gentle thoughts invest 
themselves, on every hand, with chosen words. See, in any 
house where virtue and self-respect abide, the palpitation 
which the approach of a stranger causes. A commended 
stranger is expected and announced, and an uneasiness be- 
twixt pleasure and pain invades all the hearts of a house- 
hold. His arrival almost brings fear to the good hearts that 
would welcome him. The house is dusted, all things fly into 
their places, the old coat is exchanged for the new, and they 

209 



210 FRIENDSfflP 

must get up a dinner if they can. Of a commended stranger, 
only the good report is told by others, only the good and new 
is heard by us. He stands to us for humanity. He is what 
we wish. Having imagined and invested him, we ask how 
we should stand related in conversation and action with such 
a man, and are uneasy with fear. The same idea exalts con- 
versation with him. We talk better than we are wont. We 
have the nimblest fancy, a richer memory, and our dumb 
devil has taken leave for the time. For long hours we can 
continue a series of sincere, graceful, rich communications, 
drawn from the oldest, secretest experience so that they who 
sit by, of our own kinsfolk and acquaintance, shall feel a 
lively surprise at our unusual powers. But as soon as the 
stranger begins to intrude his partialities, his definitions, his 
defects, into the conversation, it is all over. He has heard 
the first, the last and best, he will ever hear from us. He is 
no stranger now. Vulgarity, ignorance, misapprehension, 
are old acquaintances. Now, when he comes, he may get the 
order, the dress, and the dinner, — ^but the throbbing of the 
heart, and the conmiunications of the soul, no more. 

Pleasant are these jets of affection, which relume a young 
world for me again. Delicious is a just and firm encounter 
of two in a thought, in a feeling. How beautiful, on their 
approach to this beating heart, the steps and forms of the 
gifted and the true! The moment we indulge our affec- 
tions, the earth is metamorphosed: there is no winter, and no 
night: all tragedies, all ennuis vanish; all duties even; noth- 
ing fills the proceeding eternity but the forms all radiant 
of beloved persons. Let the soul be assured that somewhere 
in the universe it should rejoin its friend, and it would be 
content and cheerful alone for a thousand years. 

I awoke this morning with devout thanlragiving for my 
friends, the old and the new. Shall I not call God, the 
Beautiful, who daily showeth himself so to me in his gifts? 
I chide society, I embrace solitude, and yet I am not so im- 
grateful as not to see the wise, the lovely, and the noble- 
minded, as from time to time they pass my gate. Who 
hears me, who imderstands me, becomes mine, — a posses- 
sion for all time. Nor is nature so poor, but she gives me this 



FRIENDSfflP 211 

joy several times, and thus we weave social threads of our 
own, a new web of relations; and, as many thoughts in 
succession substantiate themselves, we shall by and by stand 
in a new world of our own creation, and no longer strangers 
and pilgrims in a traditionary globe. My friends have come 
to me unsought. The great God gave them to me. By 
oldest right, by the divine affinity of virtue with itself, I find 
them, or rather, not I, but the Deity in me and in them, 
both deride and cancel the thick walls of individual char- 
acter, relation, age, sex, and circumstance, at which he usually 
connives, and now makes many one. High thanks I owe 
you, excellent lovers, who carry out the world for me to new 
and noble depths, and enlarge the meaning of all my thoughts. 
These are not stark and stiffened persons, but the new-bom 
poetry of God, — ^poetry without stop, — hymn, ode, and epic, 
poetry still flowing, and not yet caked in dead books with 
annotations and grammar, but Apollo and the Muses chant- 
ing still. Will these two separate themselves from me again, 
or some of them? I know not, but I fear it not; for my re- 
lation to them is so pure, that we hold by simple affinity, 
and the Genius of my life being thus social, the same affinity 
will exert its energy on whomsoever is as noble as these men 
and women, wherever I may be. 

I confess to an extreme tenderness of nature on this point. 
It is almost dangerous to me to "crush the sweet poison of 
misused wine" of the affections. A new person is to me 
always a great event, and hinders me from sleep. I have had 
such fine fancies lately about two or three persons, as have 
given me delicious hours; but the joy ends in the day: it 
yields no fruit. Thought is not bom of it; my action is very 
little modified. I must feel pride in my friend's accomplish- 
ments, as if they were mine, — wild, dehcate, throbbing prop- 
erty in his virtues. I feel as warmly when he is praised, as 
the lover when he hears applause of his engaged maiden. We 
over-estimate the conscience of our friend. His goodness 
seems better than our goodness, his nature finer, his temp- 
tations less. Every thing that is his, his name, his form, 
his dress, books, and instmments fancy enhances. Our own 
thought sounds new and larger from his mouth. 



212 FRIENDSHIP 

Yet the systole and diastole of the heart are not without 
their analogy in the ebb and flow of love. Friend^p, like 
the immortality of the soul, is too good to be believed. The 
lover, beholding his maiden, half knows that she is not verily 
that which he worships; and in the golden hour of friend- 
ship, we are surprised with shades of suspicion and imbelief . 
We doubt that we bestow on our hero the virtues in which 
he shines, and afterwards worship the form to which we have 
ascribed this divine inhabitation. In strictness, the soul does 
not respect men as it respects itsdf . In strict science, all 
persons underlie the same condition of an infinite remote- 
ness. Shall we fear to cool our love by facing the fact, by 
mining for the metaphysical foundation of this Elysian 
temple? Shall I not be as real as the things I see? If I 
am, I shall not fear to know them for what they are. Their 
essence is not les3 beautiful than their appearance, though 
it needs finer organs for its apprehension. The root 
of the plant is not imsightly to science, though for 
chaplets and festoons we cut the stem short. And I must 
hazard the production of the bald fact amidst these pleasing 
reveries, though it should prove an Egyptian skull at our 
banquet. A man who stands united with his thought con- 
ceives magnificently of himself. He is conscious of a uni- 
versal success, even though bought by uniform particular 
failures. No advantages, no powers, no gold or force can be 
any match for him. I cannot choose but rely on my own 
poverty more than on your wealth. I cannot make your 
consciousness tantamount to mine. Only the star dazzles; 
the planet has a faint, moon-like ray. I hear what you say 
of the admirable parts and tried temper of the party you 
praise, but I see well that for all his purple cloaks I shall 
not like him, unless he is at last a poor Greek like me. I 
cannot deny it, O friend, that the vast shadow of the Phe- 
nomenal includes thee also in its pied and painted immen- 
sity, — ^thee also, compared with whom all else is shadow. 
Thou art not Being, as Truth is, as Justice is, — ^thou art 
not my soul, but a picture and effigy of that. Thou hast 
come to me lately, and already thou art seizing thy hat and 
cloak. Is it not that the soul puts forth friends, as the tree 



FRIENDSfflP 213 

puts forth leaves, and presently, by the germination of new 
buds, extrudes the old leaf? The law of nature is alter- 
nation forevermore. Each electrical state superinduces the 
opposite. The soul environs itself with friends, that it may 
enter into a grander self-acquaintance or soUtude; and it 
goes alone for a season, that it may exalt its conversation or 
society. This method betrays itself along the whole history 
of our personal relations. Ever the instinct of affection re- 
vives the hope of union with our mates, and ever the return- 
ing sense of insulation recalls us from the chase. Thus 
every man passes his life in the search after friendship; and 
if he should record his true sentiment, he might write a letter 
like this to each new candidate for his love. 

Dear Friend^ 

If I was sure of thee, sure of thy capacity, 
sure to match my mood with thine, I should never think 
again of trifles, in relation to thy comings and goings. I 
am not very wise; my moods are quite attainable: and I 
respect thy genius: it is to me as yet unfathomed; yet dare 
I not presume in thee a perfect intelligence of me, and so 
thou art to me a delicious tornient. Thine ever, or never. 

Yet these uneasy pleasures and fine pains are for curiosity, 
and not for hfe. They are not to be indulged. This is to 
weave cobweb, and not cloth. Our friendships hurry to 
short and poor conclusions, because we have made them a 
texture of wine and dreams, instead of the tough fibre of the 
human heart. The laws of friendship are great, austere, 
and eternal, of one web with the laws of nature and of 
morals. But we have aimed at a swift and petty benefit, 
to suck a sudden sweetness. We snatch at the slowest fruit 
in the whole garden of God, which many summers and many 
winters must ripen. We seek our friend not sacredly, but 
with an adulterate passion, which would appropriate him to 
ourselves. In vain. We are armed all over with subtle an- 
tagonisms, which, as soon as we meet, begin to play, and 
translate all poetry into stale prose. Almost all people de- 
scend to meet. All association must be a compromise, and, 
what is worst, the very flower and aroma of the flower of 
each of the beautiful natures disappears as they approach 



214 FRIENDSfflP 

each other. What a perpetual disappointment is actual 
society, even of the virtuous and gifted! After interviews 
have been compassed with long foresight, we must be tor- 
mented presently by baffled blows, by sudden unseason- 
able apathies, by epilepsies of wit and of animal spirits, in 
the hey-day of friendship and thought. Our faculties do not 
play us true, and both parties are relieved by sohtude. 

I ought to be equal to every relation. It makes no dif- 
ference how many friends I have, and what content I can 
find in conversing with each, if there be one to whom I 
am not equal. If I have shrunk unequal from one contest, 
instantly the joy I find in all the rest becomes mean and 
cowardly. I should hate myself, if then I made my other 
friends my asylum. 

''The valiant warrior famoused for fight. 
After a hundred victories, once foiled, 
Is from the book of honour razed quite, 
And all the rest forgot for which he toiled." 

Our impatience is thus sharply rebuked. Bashfulness and 
apathy are a tough husk, in which a delicate organization is 
protected from premature ripening. It would be lost, if 
it knew itself before any of the best souls were yet ripe 
enough to know and own it. Respect the Naturiangsanv- 
keit which hardens the ruby in a million years, and works 
in duration, in which Alps and Andes come and go as rain- 
bows. The good spirit of our life has no heaven which is the 
price of rashness. Love, which is the essence of God, is not 
for levity, but for the total worth of man. Let us not have 
this childish luxury in our regards, but the austerest worth; 
let us approach our friend with an audacious trust in the 
truth of his heart, in the breadth, impossible to be over- 
turned, of his foundations. 

The attractions of this subject are not to be resisted; and 
I leave, for the time, all account of subordinate social bene- 
fit, to speak of that select and sacred relation which is a ' 
kind of absolute, and which even leaves the language of 
love suspicious and common, so much is this purer, and 
nothing is so much divine. 



FRIENDSfflP 215 

I do not wish to treat friendships daintily, but with 
roughest courage. When they are real, they are not glass 
threads or frost-work, but the solidest thing we know. For 
now, after so many ages of experience, what do we know of 
nature, or of ourselves? Not one step has man taken 
toward the solution of the problem of his destiny. In one 
condemnation of folly stand the whole universe of men. But 
the sweet sincerity of joy and peace, which I draw from 
this alliance with my brother's soul, is the nut itself where- 
of all nature and all thought is but the husk and shell. 
Happy is the house that shelters a friend! It might well 
be built, Uke a festal bower or arch, to entertain him a 
single day. Happier, if he knows the solemnity of that re- 
lation, and honor its laws! It is no idle band, no holyday 
engagement. He who offers himself a candidate for that 
covenant comes up, like an Ol5rmpian, to the great games, 
where the first-bom of the world are the competitors. He 
proposes himself for contests where Time, Want, Danger, are 
in the lists, and he alone is victor who has truth enough in 
his constitution to preserve the delicacy of his beauty from 
the wear and tear of all these. The gifts of fortune may be 
present or absent, but all the hap in that contest depends on 
intrinsic nobleness, and the contempt of trifles. There are 
two elements that go to the composition of friendship, each 
so sovereign, that I can detect no superiority in either, no 
reason why either should be first named. One is Truth. A 
friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him 
I may think aloud. I am arrived at last in the presence of 
a man so real and equal, that I may drop even those under- 
most garments of dissimulation, courtesy, and second 
thought, which men never put off, and may deal with him 
with the simplicity and wholeness with which one chemical 
atom meets another. Sincerity is the luxury allowed, like 
diadems and authority, only to the highest rank, that being 
permitted to speak truth, as having none above it to courfr 
or conform unto. Every man alone is sincere. At the en- 
trance of a second person, hypocrisy begins. We parry and 
fend the approach of our fellow man by compliiments, by 
gossip, by amusements, by affairs. We cover up our 



216 FRIENDSHIP 

thought from him mider a hundred folds. I knew a man 
who, under a certam religious frenzy, cast off this drapery, 
and, omitting all compliment and commonplace, spoke to the 
conscience of every person he encountered, and that with 
great insight and beauty. At first he was resisted, and all 
men agreed he was mad. But persisting, as indeed he could 
not help doing, for some time in this course, he attained to 
the advantage of bringing every man of his acquaintance into 
true relations with him. No man would think of speaking 
falsely with him, or of putting him off with any chat of 
markets or reading-rooms. But every man was constrained 
by so much sincerity to face him, and what love of nature, 
what poetry, what symbol of truth he had, he did certainly 
show him. But to most of us society shows not its face and 
eye, but its side and its back. To stand in true relations 
with men in a false age is worth a fit of insanity, is it not? 
We can seldom go erect. Almost every man we meet re- 
quires some civility, requires to be humored; — ^he has some 
fame, some talent, some whim of religion or philanthropy 
in his head that is not to be questioned, and so spoils all 
conversation with him. But a friend is a sane man who 
exercises not my ingenuity, but me. My friend gives me 
entertainment without requiring me to stoop, or to lisp, or 
to mask myself. A friend, therefore, is a sort of paradox 
in nature. I who alone am, I who see nothing in nature 
whose existence I can affirm with equal evidence to my own, 
behold now the semblance of my being in all its height, 
variety, and curiosity, reiterated in a foreign form; so 
that a friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of 
nature. 

The other element of friendship is Tenderness. We are 
holden to men by every sort of tie, by blood, by pride, by 
fear, by hope, by lucre, by lust, by hate, by admiration, by 
every circumstance and badge and trifle, but we can scarce 
beheve that so much character can subsist in another as to 
draw us by love. Can another be so blessed, and we so pure, 
that we can offer him tenderness? When a man becomes 
dear to me, I have touched the goal of fortune. I find very 
little written directly to the heart cf this matter in books. 



FRIENDSHIP 217 

And yet I have one text which I cannot choose but remem- 
ber. My author says, "I offer m)rself famtly and bluntly 
to those whose I effectually am, and tender myself least to 
him to whom I am the most devoted/' I wish that friend- 
ship should have feet, as well as eyes and eloquence. It 
must plant itself on ihe ground, before it walks over the 
moon. I wish it to be a little of a citizen, before it is quite 
a cherub. We chide the citizen because he makes love a 
commodity. It is an exchange of gifts, of useful loans; it 
is good neighborhood; it watches with the sick; it holds the 
pall at the funeral; and quite loses sight of the dehcacies 
and nobility of the relation. But though we cannot find 
the god under this disguise of a sutler, yet, on the other hand, 
we cannot forgive the poet, if he spins his thread too fine, 
and does not substantiate his romance by the municipal 
virtues of justice, punctuality, fidehty, and pity. I hate 
the prostitution of the name of friendship to signify modish 
and worldly alliances. I much prefer the company of 
plough-boys and tin-pedlars to the silken and perfumed 
amity which only celebrates its days of encounter by a 
frivolous display, by rides in a curricle, and dinners at the 
best taverns. The end of friendship is a commerce the 
most strict and homely that can be joined; more strict than 
any of which we have experience. It is for aid and com- 
fort through all the relations and passages of life and death. 
It is fit for serene days, and graceful gifts, and country 
rambles, but also for rough roads and hard fare, shipwreck, 
poverty, and persecution. It keeps company with the 
sallies of their wit and the trances of religion. We are to dig- 
nify to each other the daily needs and offices of man's life, 
and embellish it by courage, wisdom, and unity. It should 
never fall into something usual and settled, but should be 
alert and inventive, and add rhyme and reason to what was 
drudgery. 

For perfect friendship it may be said to require natures 
so rare and costly, so well tempered each, andi so happily 
adapted, and withal so circumstanced, (for even in that par- 
ticular, a poet says, love demands that the parties be alto- 
gether paired,) that very seldom can its satisfaction be real- 



218 FRIENDSHIP 

ized. H cannot subsist in its perfection, say some of thoee 
who are learned in this warm lore of the heart, betwixt more 
than two. I am not quite so strict in my terms, perhaps 
because I have never known so high a fellowship as 
others. I please my imagination more with a circle of god- 
like men and women variously related to each other, and 
between whom subsists a lofty inteUigence. But I find this 
law of one to one peremptory for conversation, which is the 
practice and consummation of friendship. Do not mix 
waters too much. The best mix as ill as good and bad. 
You shall have very useful and cheering discourse at several 
times with two several men; but let all three of you come 
together, and you shall not have one new and hearty 
word. Two may talk and one may hear, but three 
cannot take part in a conversation of the most sin- 
cere and searching sort. In good company there is 
never such discourse between two, across the table, 
as takes place when you leave them alone. In good 
company the individuals at once merge their egotism into 
a social soul exactly coextensive with the several con- 
sciousnesses there present. No partialities of friend to 
friend, no fondnesses of brother to sister, of wife to husband, 
are there pertinent, but quite otherwise. Only h^ may then 
speak who can sail on the common thought of the party, 
and not poorly limited to his own. Now this convention, 
which good sense demands, destroys the high freedom of 
great conversation, which requires an absolute running of 
two souls into one. 

No two men but being left alone with each other enter into 
simpler relations. Yet it is affinity that determines which 
two shall converse. Unrelated men give little joy to each 
other; will never suspect the latent powers of each. We 
talk sometimes of a great talent for conversation, as if it 
were a permanent property in some individuals. Conver- 
sation is an evanescent relation, — no more. A man is 
reputed to have thought and eloquence; he cannot, for all 
that, say a word to his cousin or his imcle. They accuse 
his silence with as much reason as they would blame the 
insignificance of a dial in the shade. In the sun it will mark 



FRIENDSHIP 219 

the hour. Among those who enjoy his thought, he will re- 
gain his tongue. 

Friendship requires that rare mean betwixt likeness and 
unlikeness, that piques each with the presence of power and 
of consent in the other party. Let me be alone to the end 
of the world, rather than that my friend should overstep by 
a word or a look in his real sympathy. I am equally baulked 
by antagonism and by comphance. Let him not cease 
an instant to be himself. The only joy I have in his being 
mine, is that the not mine is mine. It turns the stomach, 
it blots the daylight, where I looked for a manly furtherance, 
or at least a manly resistance, to find a mush of concession. 
Better be a nettle in the side of your friend than his echo. 
The condition which high friendship demands is, abihty to 
do without it. To be capable of that high office requires 
great and sublime parts. There must be very two, before 
there can be very one. Let it be an alliance of two large 
formidable natures, mutually beheld, mutually feared, before 
yet they recognize the deep identity which beneath these 
disparities unites them. 

He only is fit for this society who is magnanimous. He 
must be so, to know its law. He must be one who is sure 
that greatness and goodness are always economy. He must 
be one who is not swift to intermeddle with his fortunes. 
Let him not dare to intermeddle with this. Leave to the 
diamond its ages to grow, nor expect to accelerate the births 
of the eternal. Friendship demands a religious treatment. 
We must not be wilful, we must not provide. We talk of 
choosing our friends, but friends are self-elected. Rev- 
erence is a great part of it. Treat your friend as a spec- 
tacle. Of course, if he be a man, he has merits that are not 
yours, and that you cannot honor, if you must needs hold 
him close to your person. Stand aside. Give those merits 
room. Let them mount and expand. Be not so much his 
friend that you can never know his peculiar energies; like 
fond mamas who shut up their boy in the house until he is 
almost grown a girl. Are you the friend of your friend's 
buttons, or of his thought ? To a great heart he will still be a 
stranger in a thousand particulars, that he may come near 
in the holiest ground. Leave it to girls and boys to regard 



220 FRIENDSHIP 

a friend as property, and to suck a short and all-confound- 
ing pleasure instead of the pure nectar of God. 

Let us buy our entrance to this guild by a long proba- 
tion. Why should we desecrate noble and beautiful souls by 
intruding on them? Why insist on rash personal relations 
with your friend? Why go to his house, or know his mother 
and brother and sisters? Why be visited by him at your 
own? Are these things material to our covenant? Leave 
this touching and clawing. Let him be to me a spirit. A 
inessage, a thought, a sincerity, a glance from him, I want, 
but not news, nor pottage. I can get politics, and chat, 
and neighborly conveniences, from cheaper companions. 
Should not the society of my friend be to me poetic, pure, 
universal, and great as nature itself? Ought I to feel that 
our tie is profane in comparison with yonder bar of cloud 
that sleeps on the horizon, or that clump of waving grass 
that divides the brook? Let us not vihfy, but raise it to 
that standard. That great defying eye, that scornful beauty 
of his mien and action, do not pique yourself on reducing, 
but rather fortify and enhance. Worship his superiorities. 
Wish him not less by a thought, but hoard and tell them all. 
Guard him as thy great counterpart; have a princedom to 
thy friend. Let him be to thee forever a sort of beautiful 
enemy, untamable, devoutly revered; and not a trivial con- 
veniency, to be soon outgrown and cast aside. The hues of 
the opal, the light of the diamond, are not to be seen, if 
the eye is too near. To my friend I write a letter, and from 
him I receive a letter. That seems to you a little. Me it 
suffices. It is a spiritual gift worthy of him to give and of 
me to receive. It profanes nobody. In these warm lines 
the heart will trust itself, as it will not to the tongue, and 
pour out the {)rophecy of a godlier existence than all the 
annals of heroism have yet made good. 

Respect so far the holy laws of this fellowship as not to 
prejudice its perfect flower by your impatience for its open- 
ing. We must be our own, before we can be another's. 
There is at least this satisfaction in crime, according to the 
Latin proverb, you can speak to your accomplice on even 
terms. Crimen, quos mquinatf cequat. To those whom we 



FRIENDSfflP 221 

admire and love, at first we cannot. Yet the least defect of 
self-possession vitiates, in my judgment, the entire relation. 
There can never be deep peace between two spirits, never 
mutual respect, until, in their dialogue, each stands for the 
whole world. 

What is so great as friendship, let us carry with what 
grandeur of spirit we can. Let us be silent, — so we may hear 
the whisper of the gods. Let us not interfere. Who set 
you to cast about what you should say to the select souls, 
or to say any thing to such? No matter how ingenious, no 
matter how graceful and bland. There are innumerable 
degrees of folly and wisdom; and for you to say ought is to 
be frivolous. Wait, and thy soul shall speak. Wait until 
the necessary and everlasting overpowers you, until day 
and night avail themselves of your Ups. The only money 
of God is God. He pays never with any thing less or any 
thing else. The only reward of virtue is virtue: the only 
way to have a friend is to be one. Vain to hope to come 
nearet a man by getting into his house. If unlike, his soul 
only flees the faster from you, and you shall catch never a 
true glance of his eye. We see the noble afar off, and they 
repel us; why should we intrude? Late — ^very late — ^we per- 
ceive that no arrangements, no introductions, no consuetudes, 
or habits of society, would be of any avaU to establish us 
in such relations with them as we desire, — but solely the up- 
rise of nature in us to the same degree it is in them: then 
shall we meet as water with water : and if we should not meet 
them then, we shall not want them, for we are already they. 
In the last analysis, love is only the reflection of a man's 
own worthiness from other men. Men have sometimes ex- 
changed names with their friends, as if they would signify 
that in their friend each loved his own soul. 

The higher the style we demand of friendship, of course 
the less easy to establish it with flesh and blood. We walk 
alone in the world. Friends such as we desire are dreams 
and fables. But a sublime hope cheers ever the faithful 
heart, that elsewhere, in other region^ of the universal 
power, souls are now acting, enduring, and daring, which can 
love us, and wtic^ we can Iqyq. We may cQngratulf^te our* 



222 FRIENDSHIP 

selves that the period of nonage, of follies, of blunders, and 
of shame, is passed in solitude, and when we are foiished 
men, we shall grasp heroic hands in heroic hands. Only be 
admonished by what you already see, not to strike leagues 
of friendship with cheap persons, where no friendship can 
be. Our impatience betrays us into rash and foolish alli- 
ances, which no God attends. By persisting in your path, 
though you forfeit the Uttle, you gain the great. You be- 
come pronounced. You demonstrate yourself, so as to put 
yourself out of the reach of false relations, and you draw to 
you the first-bom of the world, — ^those rare pilgrims whereof 
only one or two wander in nature at once, and before whom 
the vulgar great show as spectres and shadows merely. 

It is foolish to be afraid of making our ties too spiritual, 
as if so we could lose any genuine love. Whatever correction of 
our popular views we make from insight, nature will be sure 
to bear us out in, and though it seems to rob us of some joy, 
will repay us with a greater. Let us feel, if we will, the ab- 
solute insulation of man. We are sure that we have all in us. 
We go to Europe, or we pursue persons, or we read books, 
in the instinctive faith that these will call it out and reveal 
us to ourselves. Beggars all. The persons are such as 
we; the Europe, an old faded garment of dead persons; the 
books, their ghosts. Let us drop this idolatry. Let us give 
over this mendicancy. Let us even bid our dearest friends 
farewell, and defy them, saying, "Who are you? Unhand 
me: I will be dependent no more." Ah! seest thou not, O 
brother, that thus we part only to meet again on a higher 
platform, and only be more each other's, because we are more 
our own? A friend is Janus-faced: he looks to the past and 
the future. He is the child of all my foregoing hours, the 
prophet of those to come. He is the harbinger of a greater 
friend. It is the property of the divine to be reproductive. 

I do, then, with my friends as I do with my books. I 
would have them where I can find them, but I seldom use 
them. We must havp society on our own terms, and admit 
or exclude it on the slightest cause. I cannot afford to speak 
much with my friend. If he is great, he makes me so great 
hat I cannot descend to converse, In the great days, pre- 



FRIENDSfflP 223 

sentiments hover before me, far before me in the firmament. 
I ought then to dedicate myself to them. I go in that I 
may seize them, I go out that I may seize them. I fear only 
that I may lose them receding into the sky in which now they 
are only a patch of brighter hght. Then, though I prize my 
friends, I cannot afford to talk with them and study their 
visions, lest I lose my own. It would indeed give me a 
certain household joy to quit this lofty seeking, this spirit- 
ual astronomy, or search of stars, and come down to warm 
sympathies with you; but then I know well I shall mourn 
always the vanishing of my mighty gods. It is true, next 
week 1 shall have languid times, when I can well afford to 
occupy myself with foreign objects; then I shall regret the 
lost hterature of your mind, and wish you were by my side 
again. But if you come, perhaps you will fill my mind only 
with new visions, not with yourself, but with your lustres, 
and I shall not be able any more than now to converse with 
you. So I will owe to my friends this evanescent intercourse. 
I will receive from them not what they have, but what they 
are. They shall give me that which properly they cannot 
give me, but which radiates from them. But they shall not 
hold me by any relations less subtle and pure. We will 
meet as though we met not, and part as though we parted 
not. 

It has seemed to me lately more possible than I knew, to 
carry a friendship greatly, on one side, without due corre- 
spondence on the other. Why should I cumber myself with 
the poor fact that the receiver is not capacious? It never 
troubles the sun that some of his rays fall wide and vain into 
ungrateful space, and only a small part on the reflecting 
planet. Let your greatness educate the crude and cold 
companion. If he is unequal, he will presently pass away; 
but thou art enlarged by thy own shining, and, no longer a 
mate for frogs and worms, dost soar and bum with the gods 
of the empyrean. It is thought a disgrace to love unre- 
quited. But the great will see that true love cannot be im- 
requited. True love transcends instantly the imworthy 
object, and dwells and broods on the eternal; and when the 
l)Oor« interposed mask crumbles, it is not sad, but feels rid of 



224 FRIENDSHIP 

BO much 'fearth, and feels its independency the surer. Yet 
these things may hardly be said without a sort of treachery 
to the relation. The essence of friendship is entireness, a 
total magnanimity and trust. It must not surmise or pro- 
vide for infirmity. It treats its object as a god, that it may 
deify both. 



XI 

MANNERS 

''How near to good is what is fairl 
Which we no sooner see, 
But with the lines and outward air 
Our senses taken be. 

Again yourselves compose, 
And now put all the aptness on 
Of Figure, that Proportion 

Or Colour can disclose; 
That if those silent arts were lost, 
Design and Picture, they might boast 

From you a newer ground. 
Instructed by the heightening sense 
Of dignity and reverence 

In their true motions found." 

Bbn Jonbon. 

Half the world, it is said, knows not how the other half 
lives. Our Exploring Expedition saw the Feejee islanders 
getting their dinner off human bones; aud they are said to 
eat their own wives and children. The husbandry of the 
modem inhabitants of Goumou (west of old Thebes) is 
philosophical to a fault. To set up their housekeeping, 
nothing is requisite but two or three earthem pots, a stone 
to grind meal, and a mat which is the bed. The house, 
namely, a tomb, is ready without rent or taxes. No rain 
can pass through the roof, and there is no door, for there is 
no want of one, as there is nothing to lose. If the house do 
not please them, they walk out and enter another, as there 
are several hundreds at their command. "It is somewhat 
singular," adds Belzoni, to whom we owe this account, "to 
talk of happiness among people who live in sepulchres, 
among the corjxses and rags of an ancient nation which they 

ftSt5 



226 MANNERS 

know nothing of." In the deserts of Borgoo, the rock-Tlb- 
boos still dwell in caves, like cliff swallows, and the language 
of these negroes is compared by their neighbors to the shriek- 
ing of bats, and to the whistling of birds. Again, the Bor- 
noos have no proper names; individuals are called after thdr 
height, thickness, or other accidental quality, and have nick- 
names merely. But the .salt, the dates, the ivory, and the 
gold, for which these horrible regions are visited, find their 
way into countries, where the purchaaer and consumer can 
hardly be ranked in one race with these cannibals and man- 
stealers: countries where man serves himself with metals, 
wood, stone, glass, gum, cotton, silk, and wool; honors him- 
self with architecture; writes laws, and contrives to execute 
his will through the hands of many nations; and especially 
establishes a select society, running through all the countries 
of intelligent men, a self-constituted aristocracy, or frater- 
nity of the best, which, without written law, or exact usage 
of any kind, perpetuates itself, colonizes every new-planted 
island, and adopts and makes its own, whatever personal 
beauty or extraordinary native endowment anywhere aj)- 
pears. 

What fact more conspicuous in modern history than the 
creation of the gentleman? Chivalry is that, and loyalty 
is that, and, in English literature, half the drama, and all the 
novels, from Sir Philip Sidney to Sir Walter Scott, paint 
this figure. The word gentleman, which, like the word 
Christian, must hereafter characterize the present and the 
few preceeding centuries, by the importance attached to it, 
is a homage to personal and incommunicable properties. 
Frivolous and fantastic additions have got associated with 
the name, but the steady interest of mankind in it must be 
attributed to the valuable properties which it designated. 
An element which imites all the most forcible x)ersons of 
every country; makes them intelligible and agreeable to ea^h 
other, and is somewhat so precise, that it is at once felt if 
an individual lack the masonic sign, cannot be any casual 
product, but must be an average result of the character and 
faculties universally found in men. It seems a certain per- 
manent average; as the atmosphere is a permanent compo- 



MANNERS 227 

ffltion, whilst so many gases are combined only to be decom- 
pounded. Comme U faut, is the Frenchman's description 
of good society, as we must be. It is a spontaneous fruit 
of talents and feelings of precisely that class who have most 
vigor, who take the lead in the world of this hour, and, 
though far from pure, far from constituting the gladdest and 
highest tone of human feeling, is as good as the whole society 
permits it to be. It is made of the spirit, more than of the 
talent of men, and is a compound result, into which every 
great force enters as an ingredient, namely, virtue, wit, 
beauty, wealth, and power. 

There is something equivocal in all the words in use to 
express the excellence of manners and social cultivation, 
because the quantities are fluxional, and the last effect is 
assumed by the senses as the cause. The word gentleman 
has not any correlative abstract to express the quality. 
OentUity is mean, and gentUesse is obsolete. But we must 
keep alive in the vernacular the distinction between fashion, 
a word of narrow and often sinister meanings and the heroic 
character which the gentleman imports. The usual words, 
however, must be respected: they will be found to contain 
the root of the matter. The point of distinction in all this 
class of names, as courtesy, chivalry, fashion, and the like, is, 
that the flower and the fruit, not the grain of the tree, are 
contemplated. It is beauty which is the aim this time, and 
not worth. The result is now in question, although our 
words intimate well enough the popular feeling, that the 
appearance supposes a substance. The gentleman is a man 
of truth, lord of his own actions, and expressing that lord- 
ship in his behavior, not in any manner dependent and ser- 
vile, either on persons, or opinions, or possessions. Beyond 
this fact of truth and real force, the word denotes good- 
nature or benevolence: manhood first, and then gentleness. 
^e popular notion certainly adds a condition of ease and 
fortune. But that is a natural result of personal force and 
love, that they should possess and dispense the goods of the 
world. In times of violence, every eminent person must fall 
in with many opportunities to approve his stoutness and 
worth; therefore, every man's name that emerged at all 



228 MANNERS 

from the mass in the feudal ages, rattles in our ear like a 
flourish of trumpets. But personal force never goes out of 
fashion. That is still paramount to-day, and, in the mov- 
ing crowd of good society, the men of valor and reaUty are 
known, and rise to their natural place. The competition is 
transferred from war to pohtics and trade, but the personal 
force appears readily enough in these new arenas. 

Power first, or no leading class. In politics and in 
trade, bruisers and pirates are of better promise than 
talkers and clerks. God knows that all sorts of gentlemen 
knock at the door; but whenever used in strictness, and 
with any emphasis, the name will be found to point at orig- 
inal energy. It describes a man standing in his own right, 
and working after untaught methods. In a good lord, there 
must first be a good animal, at least to the extent of yielding 
the incomparable advantage of animal spirits. The ruling class 
must have more, but they must have these, giving in every 
company the sense of power, which makes things easy to be 
done which daunt the wise. The society of the energetic 
class, in their friendly and festive meetings, is full of courage, 
and of attempts, which intimidate the pale scholar. The 
courage which girls exhibit is like the battle of Lundy's 
Lane, or a sea-fight. The intellect relies on memory to 
make some supplies to face these extemporaneous squadrons. 
But memory is a base mendicant with basket and badge, in 
the presence of these sudden masters. The rulers of society 
must be up to the work of the world, and equal to their 
versatile office: men of the right Caesarian pattern, who have 
great range of affinity. I am far from believing the timid 
maxim of Lord Falkland, ("that for ceremony there must go 
two to it; since a bold fellow will go through the cunningest 
forms,") and am of opinion that the gentleman is the bold 
fellow whose forms are not to be broken through; and only 
that plenteous nature is rightful master, which is the com- 
plement of whatever person it converses with. My gentle- 
man gives the law where he is; he will out-pray saints in 
chapel, out-general veterans in the field, and outshine all 
courtesy in the hall. He is good company for pirates, and 
<;ood with academicians; so that it is useless to fortify your* 



MANNERS 229 

self against him; he has the private entrance to all minds, 
and I could as easily exclude myself as him. The famous 
gentlemen of Asia and Europe have been of this strong type: 
Saladin, Sapor, the Cid, Julius Caesar, Scipio, Alexander, 
Pericles, and the lordliest personages. They sat very 
carelessly in their chairs, and were too excellent themselves, 
to value any condition at a high rate. 

A plentiful fortune is reckoned necessary, in the popular 
judgment, to the completion of this man of the world: and 
it is a material deputy which walks through the dance 
which the first has led. Money is not essential, but this 
wide affinity is, which transcends the habits of clique and 
caste, and makes itself felt by men of all classes. If the 
aristocrat is only valid in fashionable circles, and not with 
truckmen, he will never be a leader in fashion; and if the 
man of the people cannot speak on equal terms with the 
gentleman, so that the gentleman shall perceive that he is 
already really of his own order, he is not to be feared. 
Diogenes, Socrates, and Epaminondas, are gentlemen of the 
best blood, who have chosen the condition of poverty, when 
that of wealth was equally ox)en to them. I use these old 
names, but the men I speak of are my contemporaries. 
Fortune will not supply to every generation one of these 
well-appointed knights, but every collection of men fur- 
nishes some example of the class: and the politics of this 
country, and the trade of every town, are controlled by 
these hardy and irresponsible doers, who have invention to 
take the lead, and a broad sympathy which puts them in 
fellowship with crowds, and makes their action popular. 

The manners of this class are observed and caught with 
devotion by men of taste. The association of these masters 
with each other, and with men intelligent of their merits, is 
mutually agreeable and stimulating. The good forms, the 
happiest expressions of each, are repeated and adopted. By 
swift consent, every thing superfluous is dropi)ed, every 
thing graceful is renewed. Fine manners show themselves 
formidable to the uncultivated man. They are a subtler 
science of defence to parry and intimidate; but once matched 
by the skill of the other party, they drop the point of the 



230 MANNERS 

sword, — points and fences disappear, and the youth finds 
himself in a more transparent atmosphere, wherein life is a 
less troublesome game, and not a misunderstanding arises 
between the players. Manners aim to facilitate life, to get 
rid of impediments, and to bring the man pure to energize. 
They aid our dealings and conversation, as a railway aids 
travelling, by getting rid of all avoidable obstructions of the 
road, and leaving nothing to be conquered but pure space. 
These forms very soon become fixed, and a fine sense of pro- 
priety is cultivated with the more heed, that it becomes a 
badge of social and civil distinctions. Thus grows up Fash- 
ion, an equivocal semblance, the most puissant, the most 
fantastic and frivolous, the most feared and followed, and 
which morals and violence assault in vain. 

There exists a strict relation between the class of power, 
and the exclusive- and polished circles. The last are always 
filled or filling from the first. The strong men usually give 
some allowance even to the petulances of fashion, for that 
affinity they find in it. Napoleon, child of the revolution, 
destroyer of the old noblesse, never ceased to court the 
Faubourg St. Germain: doubtless with the feeling, that 
fashion is a homage to men of his stamp. Fashion, though 
in a strange way, represents all manly virtue. It is virtue 
gone to seed : it is a kind of posthumous honor. It does not 
often caress the great, but the children of the great: it is 
a hall of the Past. It usually sets its face against the great 
of this hour. Great men are not commonly in its halls: 
they are absent in the field: they are working, not triumph- 
ing. Fashion is made up of their children; of those, who 
through the value and virtue of somebody, have acquired 
lustre to their name, marks of distinction, means of culti- 
vation and generosity, and, in their physical organization, a 
certain health and excellence which secures to them, if not 
the highest power to work, yet high power to enjoy. The 
class of power, the working heroes, the Cortez, the Nelson, 
the Napoleon, see that this is the festivity and permanent 
celebration of such as they; that fashion is funded talent; 
is Mexico, Marengo, and Trafalgar, beaten out thin; that 
the brilliant names of fashion run back to just such busy 



MANNERS 231 

names as their own, fifty or sixty years ago. They are the 
sowers, their sons shall be the reapers, and their sons, in the 
ordinary course of things, must yield the possession of the har- 
vest to new competitors with keener eyes and stronger 
frames. The city is recruited from the country. In the 
year 1805, it is said, every legitimate monarch in Europe 
was imbecile. The city would have died out, rotted, and 
exploded long ago, but that it was reinforced from the fields. 
It is only country which came to town day before yesterday, 
that is city and court to-day. 

Aristocracy and fashion are certain inevitable results. 
These mutual selections are indestructible. If they pro- 
voke anger in the least favored class, and the excluded 
majority revenge themselves on the excluding minority, 
by the strong hand, and kill them, at once a new class finds 
itself at the top, as certainly as cream rises in a bowl of 
milk: and if the people should destroy class after class, 
until two men only were left, one of these would be the 
leader, and would be involuntarily served and copied by the 
other. You may keep this minority out of sight and out of 
mind, but it is tenacious of life, and is one of the estates of 
the realm. I am the more struck with this tenacity, when 
I seek its work. It respects the administration of such im- 
important matters, that we should not look for any dur- 
ability in its rule. We sometimes meet men under some 
strong moral influence, as, a patriotic, a literary, a religious 
movement, and feel that the moral sentiment rules man and 
nature We think all other distinctions and ties will be 
slight and fugitive, this of caste or fashion, for example; 
yet come from year to year, and see how permanent that is, 
in this Boston or New York life of man, where, too, it has 
not the least coimtenance from the law of the land. Not 
in Eg3rpt or in India, a firmer or more impassable line. 
Here are associations whose ties go over, and under, and 
through it, a meeting of merchants, a military corps, a 
college-class, a fire-club, a professional association, a polit- 
ical, a religious convention; — the persons seem to draw in- 
separably near; yet, that assembly once dispersed, its mem- 
bers will not in the year meet again. Each returns to 



232 MANNERS 

his degree in the scale of good society, porcelain remains 
porcelain, and earthen earthen. The objects of fashion may 
be frivolous, or fashion may be objectless, but the nature of 
this union and selection can be neither frivolous nor acci- 
dental. Each man's rank in that perfect graduation de- 
pends on some symmetry in his structure, or some agree- 
ment in his structure to the symmetry of society. Its doors 
unbar instantaneously to a natural claim of their own kind. 
A natural gentleman fbids his way in, and will keep the oldest 
patrician out, who has lost his intrinsic rank. Fashion 
imderstands itself; good breeding of every country and 
personal superiority readily fraternize with that of every 
other. The chiefs of savage tribes have distinguished them- 
selves in London and Paris, by the purity of their toumure. 
To say what good of fashion we can, — ^it rests on reality, 
and hates nothing so much as pretenders; — ^to exclude and 
mystify pretenders, and send them into everlasting "Cov- 
entry," is its delight. We contemn, in turn, every other 
gift of men of the world; but the habit even in little and the 
least matters, of not appealing to any but our own sense of 
propriety, constitutes the foundation of all chivalry. There 
is almost no kind of self-reliance, so it be sane and propor- 
tioned, which fashion does not occasionally adopt, and give it 
the freedom of its saloons. A sainted soul is always elegant, 
and, if it will, passes unchallenged into the most guarded 
ring. But so will Jock the teamster pass, in some crisis that 
brings him thither, and find favor, as long as bis head is not 
giddy with the new circumstance, and the iron shoes do not 
wish to dance in waltzes and cotillons. For there is nothing 
settled in manners, but the laws of behavior yield to the 
energy of the individual. The maiden at her first ball, the 
countryman at a city dinner, believes that there is a ritual 
according to which every act and compliment must be per- 
formed, or the failing party must be cast out of this pres- 
ence. Later they learn that good sense and character make 
their own forms every moment, and speak or abstain, take 
wine or refuse it, stay or go, sit in a chair or sprawl with 
children on the floor, or stand on their head, or what else 
soever, in a new and aboriginal way: and that strong will i» 



MANNERS 238 

always in fashion, let who will be unfashionable. All that 
fstshion demands is compdsure, and self-content. A circle of 
men perfectly well-bred, would be a company of sensible 
persons, in which every man's native manners and charac- 
ter appeared. If the fashionist have not this quality, he is 
nothing. We are such lovers of self-reliance, that we ex- 
cuse in a man many sins, if he will show us a complete satis- 
faction in his position, which asks no leave to be, of mine, 
or any man's good opinion. But any deference to some 
eminent man or woman of the world, forfeits all privilege 
of nobility. He is an underling: I have nothing to do with 
him; I will speak with his master. A man should not go 
where he cannot carry his whole sphere or society with 
him, — not bodily, the whole circle of his friends, but atmos- 
pherically. He should preserve in a new company the 
same attitude of mind and reality of relation, which his 
daily associates draw him to, else he is shorn of his best 
beams, and will be an, orphan in the merriest club. "If you 
could see Vich Ian Vohr with his tail on! — " But Vich 
Ian Vohr must always carry his belongings in some fashion, 
if not added as honor, then severed as disgrace. 

There will always be in society certain persons who are 
Mercuries of its approbation, and whose glance will at any 
time determine for the curious their standing in the world. 
These are the chamberlains of the lesser gods. Accept 
their coldness as an omen of grace with the loftier deities, 
and allow them all their privilege. They are clear in their 
office, nor could they be thus formidable, without their own 
merits. But do not measure thp importance of this class 
by their pretension, or imagine that a fop can be the dis- 
penser of honor and shame. They pass also at their just 
rate; for how can they otherwise, in circles which dxist as a 
sort of herald's office for the sifting of character? 

As the first thing man requires of man, is reality, so, that 
appears in all the forms of society. We pointedly, and by name 
introduce the parties to each other. Know you before all 
heaven and earth, that this is Andrew, and this is Gregory; — 
they look each other in the eye; they grasp each other's hand, 
to identify and signalize each other. It is a great satis- 



234 MANNERS 

faction. A gentleman never dodges: his eyes look straight 
forward, and he assures the othef party, first of all, that 
he has been met. For what is it that we seek, in so many 
visits and hospitalities? Is it your draperies, pictures, 
and decorations? Or do we not insatiably ask, Was a man 
in the house? I may easily go into a great household 
where there is much substance, excellent provision for 
comfort, luxury, and taste, and yet not encounter there any 
Amphitryon, who shall subordinate these appendages. I 
may go into a cottage, and find a farmer who feels that iie 
is the man I have come to see, and fronts me accordingly. 
It was therefore a very natural point of feudal etiquette, 
that a gentleman who received a visit, though it were of 
his sovereign, should not leave his roof, but should wait his 
arrival at the door of his house. No house, though it were 
the Tuileries, or the Escurial, is good for anything without 
a master. Aqd yet we are not often gratified by this hos- 
pitality. Every body we know surrounds himself with a 
fine house, fine books, conservatory, gardens, equipage, and 
all manner of toys, as screens to interpose between himself 
and his guest. Does it not seem as if man was of a very 
sly, elusive nature, and dreaded nothing so much as a full 
rencontre front to front with his fellow? It were immerci- 
ful, I know, quite to abolish the use of these screens, which 
are of eminent convenience, whether the guest is too great, 
or too little. We call together many friends who keep each 
other in play, or, by luxuries and ornaments we amuse the 
yoimg people, and guard our retirement. Or if, perchance, 
a searching realist comes to our gate, before whose eye we 
have no care to stand, then again we run to our curtain, and 
hide as Adam at the voice of the Lord God in the garden. 
Cardinal' Caprara, the Pope's legate at Paris, defended him- 
self from the glances of Napoleon, by an inmiense pair of 
green spectacles. Napoleon remarked them, and speedily 
managed to rally them off; and yet Napoleon, in his turn, 
was not great enough with eight hundred thousand troops 
at his back, to face a pair of freebom eyes, but fenced him- 
self with etiquette, and within triple barriers of reserve; 
and, as all the world knows from Madame de Stael, was 



» MANNERS 235 

wont, when he found himself observed, to discharge his face 
of all expression. But emperors and rich men are by no 
means the most skilful masters of good manners. No rent- 
roll nor army-list can dignify skulking and dissimulation: 
and the first point of courtesy must always be truth, as 
really all the forms of good-breeding point that way. 

I have just been reading, in Mr. Hazlitt's translation, 
Montaigne's account of his journey into Italy, and am 
struck with nothing more agreeably than the self-respecting 
fashions of the time. His arrival in each place, the arrival 
of a gentleman of France, is an event of some consequence. 
Wherever he goes, he pays a visit to whatever prince or 
gentleman of note resides upon his road, as a duty to him- 
self and to civilization. When he leaves any house in which 
he has lodged for a few weeks, he causes his arms to be 
painted and hung up as a perpetual sign to the house, as 
was the custom of gentlemen. 

The complement of this graceful self-respect, and that 
of all the points of good breeding I most require and insist 
upon, is deference. I like that every chair should be a 
throne, and hold a king. I prefer a tendency to stateliness, 
to an excess of fellowship. Let the incommunicable ob- 
jects of nature and the metaphysical isolation of man teach 
us independence. Let us not be too much acquainted. I 
would have a man enter his house through a hall filled with 
heroic and sacred sculptures, that he might not want the 
hint of tranquillity and self-poise. We should meet each 
morning, as from foreign countries, and spending the day 
together, should depart at night, as into foreign countries. 
In all things I would have the island of a man inviolate. Let 
us sit apart as the gods, talking from peak to peak all round 
Olympus. No degree of aflFection need invade this religion. 
This is myrrh and rosemary to keep the other sweet. Lovers 
should guard their strangeness. If they forgive too much, 
all slides into confusion and meanness. It is easy to push 
this deference to a Chinese etiquette; but coolness and 
absence of heat and haste indicate fine qualities. A gentle- 
man makes no noise: a lady is serene. Proportionate is 
our disgust at those invaders who fill a studious house with 



236 MANNERS ' 

blast or running, to secure some paltry convenience. Not 
less I dislike a low sympathy of each with his neighbor's 
needs. Must we have a good understanding with one another's 
palates? as foolish people who have lived long together, 
know when each wants salt or sugar. I pray my companion, 
if he wishes for bread, to ask me for bread, and if he wishes 
for sassafras or arsenic, to ask me for them, and not to hold 
out his plate, as if I knew already. Every natural fimction 
can be dignified by deliberation and privacy. Let us leave 
hurry to slaves. The compliments and ceremonies of our 
breeding should signify, however remotely, the recollection 
of the grandeur of our destiny. 

The flower of courtesy does not very well bide handling, 
but if we dare to open another leaf, and explore what parts 
go to its conformation, we shall find also an intellectual 
quality. To the leaders of men, the brain as well as the 
flesh and the heart must furnish a proportion. Defect in 
manners is usually the defect of flne perceptions. Men are 
too coarsely made for the delicacy of beautiful carriage and 
customs. It is not quite sufficient to good breeding, a 
imion of kindness and independence. We imperatively 
require a perception of, and a homage to beauty in our com- 
panions. Other virtues are in request in the field and 
workyard, but a certain degree of taste is not to be spared 
in those we sit with. I could better eat with one who did 
not respect the truth or the laws, than with a sloven and 
unpresentable person. Moral qualities rule the world, but 
at short distances, the senses are despotic. The same dis- 
crimination of fit and fair runs out, if with less rigor, into 
all parts of life. The average spirit of the energetic class 
is good sense, acting \mder certain limitations and to cer- 
tain ends. It entertains every natural gift. Social in its na- - 
ture, it respects every thing which tends to unite men. It 
delights in measure. The love of beauty is mainly the love 
of measure or proportion. The person who screams, or uses 
the superlative decree, or converses with heat, puts whole 
drawing-rooms to flight. If you wish to be loved, love meas- 
ure. You must have genius, or a prodigious usefulness, if you ' 
will hide the want of measure. This perception comes in to . 



MANNERS 237 

polish and perfect the parts of the social instrument. So- 
ciety will pardon much to genius and special gifts, but, being 
in its nature a convention, it loves what is conventional, or 
what belongs to coming together. That makes the good 
and bad of manners, namely, what helps or hinders fellow- 
ship. For fashion is not good sense absolute, but relative; 
not good sense private, but good sense entertaining company. 
It hates corners and sharp points of character, hates quarrel- 
some, egotistical, solitary, and gloomy people; hates what- 
ever can interfere with total blending of parties; whilst it 
values all peculiarities as in the highest degree refreshing, 
which can consist with good fellowship. And besides the 
general infusion of wit to heighten civility, the direct 
splendor of intellectual power is ever welcome in fine society 
as the costliest addition to its rule and its credit. 

The dry light must shine in to adorn our festival, but it 
must be tempered and shaded, or that will also offend. 
Accuracy is essential to beauty, and quick perceptions to 
politeness, but not too quick perceptions. One may be too 
punctual and too precise. He must leave the omniscience of 
business at the door, when he comes into the palace of beauty. 
Society loves Creole natures, and sleepy, languishing manners, 
so that they cover sense, grace, and good-will; the air of 
drowsy strength, which disarms criticism; i)erhaps, because 
such a person seems to reserve himself for the best of the 
game, and not spend himself on surfaces; an ignoring eye, 
which does not see the annoyances, shifts, and inconven- 
iences that cloud the brow and smother the voice of the 
sensitive. 

Therefore, besides personal force and so much perception 
as constitutes unerrii;ig taste, society demands, in its patri- 
cian class, another element already intimated, which it sig- 
4- nificantly terms good-nature, expressing all d^rees of gener- 
osity from the lowest willingness and faculty to obUge, up 
to the heights of magnanimity and love. Insight we must 
have, or we shall run against one another, and miss the way 
to our food; but intellect is selfish and barren. The secret 
of success in society, is a certain heartiness and sympathy. 
A man who is not happy in the CQmpany, cannot find any 



238 MANNERS 

word in his memory that will fit the occaaon. All his 
information is a little impertinent. A man who is happy 
there, finds in every turn of the conversation equally lucky 
occasions for the introduction of that which he has to say. 
The favorites of society, and what it calls whole sovlSj are 
able men, and of more spirit than wit, who have no uncomfort- 
able ^^tism, but who exactly fill the hour and the company, 
contented and contenting, at a marriage or a fimeral, a bail 
or a jury, a water-party or a shooting-match. England, 
which is rich in gentlemen, furnished, in the beginning of the 
present century, a good model of that genius which the world 
loves, in Mr: Fox, who added to his great abilities the most 
social disposition, and real love of men. Parliamentary 
history has few better passages than the debate, in which 
Burke and Fox separated in the House of Commons; when 
Fox urged on his old friend the claims of old friendship with 
such tenderness that the house was moved to tears. Another 
anecdote is so close to my matter, that I must hazard the 
story. A tradesman who had long dunned him for a note of 
three hundred guineas, found him one day counting gold, 
and demanded payment : "No," said Fox, "I owe this money 
to Sheridan; it is a debt of honor: if an accident should 
happen to me, he has nothing to show." "Then," said the 
creditor, "I change my debt into a debt of honor," and tore 
the note in pieces. Fox thanked the man for his confidence, 
and paid him, saying, "his debt was of older standing, and 
Sheridan must wait." Lover of liberty, friend of the Hin- 
doo, friend of the African slave, he possessed a great per- 
sonal popularity; and Napoleon said of him on the occasion 
of his visit to Paris, in 1805, "Mr Fox will always hold the 
first place in an assembly of the Tuileries." 

We may easily seem ridiculous in our eulogy of courtesy, 
whenever we insist on benevolence as its foundation. The 
painted phantasm Fashion rises to cast a species of deri^on 
on what we say. But I will neither be driven from some 
allowance to Fashion, as a symbolic institution, nor from 
the belief that love is the basis of courtesy. We must 
obtain that, if we can; but by all means we must affirm 
this. Life owes much of its spirit to these sharp contrasts. 



MANNERS 239 

Fashion which affects to be honor^ is often, in all men's 
experience, only a ball-room code. Yet, sa long as it is the 
highest circle in the imagination of the best heads on the 
planet, there is something necessary and excellent in it; 
for it is not to be supposed that men have agreed to be the 
dupes of any thing preposterous; and the respect which 
these mysteries inspire in the most rude and sylvan char- 
acters, and the curiosity with which details of high life 
are read, betray the universality of the love of cultivated 
manners. I know that a comic disparity would be felt, if 
we should enter the acknowledged "first circles," and apply 
these terrific standards of justice, beauty, and benefit, to 
the individuals actually foimd there. Monarchs and heroes, 
sages and lovers, these gallants are not. Fashion has many 
classes and many rules of probation and admission; and 
not the best alone. There is not only the right of conquest, 
which genius pretends, — the individual demonstrating his 
natural aristocracy best of the best; — ^but less claims will 
pass for the time; for Fashion loves lions, and points, like 
Circe, to her homed company. This gentleman is this 
afternoon arrived from Denmark; and that is my Lord Ride, 
who came yesterday from Bagdat; here is Captain Friese, 
from Cape Tumagain; and Captain Symmes, from the in- 
terior of the earth; and Monsieur Jovaire, who came down 
this morning in a balloon; Mr. Hobnail, the reformer; and 
Reverend Jul Bat, who has converted the whole torrid zone 
in his Sunday-school; and Signor Torre del Greco, who ex- 
tinguished Vesuvius, by pouring into it the Bay of Naples; 
Spahi, the Persian ambassador; and Tul Wil Shan, the exiled 
nabob of Nepaul, whose saddle is the new moon. — ^But 
these are monsters of one day, and to-morrow will be dis- 
missed to their holes and dens; for, in these rooms, every 
chair is waited for. The artist, the scholar, and, in general, 
the clerisy, wins its way up into these places, and gets rep- 
resented here, somewhat on this footing of conquest. 
Another mode is to pass throuugh all the degrees, spending 
a year and a day in St. Michael's Square, being steeped in 
Cologne water, and perfumed, and dined, and introduced, 
and properly grounded in all the biography, and politics, and 



240 MANNERS 

anedotes of the boudoirs. 

Yet these fineries may have grace and wit. Let there be 
grotesque sculpture about the gates and offices of temples. 
Let the creed and commandments even have the saucy hom- 
age of parody. The forms of politeness imiversally express 
benevolence in superlative degrees. What if they are in 
the mouths of selfish men, and used ss means of selfishness? 
What if the false gentleman almost bows the true out of 
the world? What if the false gentleman contrives so to 
address his companion, as civilly to exclude all others from 
his discourse, and also to make them feel excluded? Real 
service will not lose its nobleness. All generosity is not merely 
French and sentimental; nor is it to be concealed, that living 
blood and a passion of kindness does at last distinguish Gk)d's 
gentleman from Fashion's. The epitaph of Sir Jenkin 
Grout is not wholly imintelligible to the present age. 
"Here lies Sir Jenkin Grout, who loved his friend, and per- 
suaded his enemy: what his mouth ate, his hand paid for: 
what his servants robbed, he restored: if a woman gave him 
pleasure, he supported her in pain: he never forgot his 
children: and whoso touched his finger, drew after it his 
whole body." Even the line of heroes is not utterly extinct. 
There is still ever some admirable person in plain clothes, 
standing on the wharf, who jumps in to rescue a drowning 
man; there is still some absurd inventor of charities; some 
guide and comforter of run-away slaves; some friend of 
Poland; some Philhellene; some fanatic who plants shade- 
trees for the second and third generation, and orchards 
when he is grown old; some well-concealed piety; some 
just man happy in an ill-fame; some youth ashamed of the 
favors of fortune, and impatiently casting them on other 
shoulders. And these are the centers of society, on which it 
returns for fresh impulses. These are the creators of 
Fashion, which is an attempt to organize beauty of be- 
havior. The beautiful and the generous are, in the theory, 
the doctors and apostles of this church: Scipio, and the 
ad, and Sir Phillip Sidney, and Washington, and every pure 
and valiant heart, who worshipped Beauty by word and by 
deed. The persons who constitute the natural aristocracy, 



MANNERS 211 

are not found in the actual aristocracy, or, only on its edge; 
as the chemical energy of the spectrum is found to be great- 
est, just outside of the spectrum. Yet that is the infirmity of 
the seneschals, who do not know their sovereign when he 
appears. The theory of society supposes the existence and 
sovereignty of these. It divines afar off their coming. It 
says with the elder gods, — 

**Ab Heaven and Earth are fairer far 
Than Chaoe and blank Darkness, though onoe chiefs; ' 
And as we show beyond that Heaven and Earth, 
In form and shape oompaot and beautiful; 
So, on our heels a fresh perfection treads; 
A power, more strong in beauty, born of U8t 
And fated to excel us, as we pass 
In glory that old Darkness: 

^for, 'tis the eternal law. 

That first in beauty shall be first in might." 

Therefore, within the ethnical circle of good society, there 
is a narrower and higher circle, concentration of its light, 
and flower of courtesy, to which there is always a tacit 
appeal of pride and reference, as to its inner and imperial 
court, the parliament of love and chivalry. And this is con- 
stituted of those persons in whom heroic dispositions are 
native, with the love of beauty, the dehght in society, and 
the power to embellish the passing day. If the individuals 
who compose the purest circles of aristocracy in Europe, 
the guarded blood of centuries, should pass in review, in 
such a manner as that we could, at leisure, and critically, 
inspect their behavior, we might find no gentleman, and no 
lady; for, although excellent specimens of courtesy and high- 
breeding would gratify us in the assemblage, in the parti- 
culars we should detect offense; because elegance comes of 
no breeding, but of birth. There must be romance of 
character, or the most fastidious exclusion of impertinencies 
will not avail. It must be genius which takes that direction : 
it must be not courteous, but courtesy. High behavior is 
as rare in fiction, as it is in fact. Scott is praised for the 
fidelity with which he painted the demeanor and conver- 
sation of the superior classes. Certainly, kings and queens, 



242 MANNERS 

nobles and great ladies, had some right to complain of the 
absurdity that had been put in their mouths, before the 
days of Waverley: but neither does Scott's dialogue bear 
criticism. His lords brave each other in smart epigram- 
matic speeches, but the dialogue is in costume, and does not 
please on the second reading: it is not warm with life. 
In Shakspeare alone, the speakers do not strut and bridle, 
the dialogue is easily great, and he is the best-bred man in 
all England, in all Christendom. Once or twice, in real life, 
we are permitted to enjoy the charm of noble manners, in 
the presence of a man or woman who have no bar in thdr 
nature, but whose character emanates freely in their word 
and gesture. A beautiful form is better tiban a beautiful 
face; a beautiful behavior- is better than a beautiful form: 
it gives a higher pleasure than statues or pictures; it is the 
finest of the fine arts. A man is but a little thing in the 
midst of the objects of nature, yet, by the moral quality 
radiating from his countenance, he may abolish all con- 
siderations of magnitude, and in his manners equal the 
majesty of the world. I have seen an individual, whose 
manners, though wholly within the conventions of elegant 
society, were never learned there, but were original and 
commanding, and held out protection and prosperity; one 
who did not need the aid of a court-suit, but carried the 
holiday in his eye; who exhilarated the fancy by flinging 
wide the doors of new modes of existence; who shook ofiF 
the captivity of etiquette, with, happy, spirited bearing, 
good-natured and free as Robin Hood; yet with the port of 
an emperor, — ^if need be, calm, serious, and fit to stand the 
gaze of miUions. 

The open air and the fields, the streets and public cham- 
bers, are the places where man executes his will; let him 
yield or divide the sceptre at the door of the house. Worn-* 
an, with her instinct of behavior, instantly detects in man 
a love of trifles, any coldness or imbecility, or, in short, any' 
want of that large, flowing, and a magnanimous deportment,' 
which is indispensable as an exterior in the hall. Oui^ 
American institutions have been friendly to her, and, at this^ 
moment, I esteem it a chief felicity of this country, that it' 



MANNERS 243 

excels in women. A certain awkward consciousness of 
ioferiority in the men, may give rise to the new chivalry in 
behalf of Women's Rights. Certainly, let her be as much 
better placed in the laws and in social forms, as the most 
zealous reformer can ask, but I confide so entirely in her in- 
spiring and musical nature, that I believe only herself can 
show us how she shall be served. The wonderful generosity 
of her sentiments raises her at times into heroical and godlike 
regions, and verifies the pictures of Minerva, Jimo, or Polym- 
nia; and, by the firmness with which she treads her upward 
path, she convinces the coarsest calculators that another 
road exists, than that which their feet know. But besides 
those who make good in our imagination the place of muses 
and of Delphic Sybils, are there not women who fill our 
vase with wine and roses to the brim, so that the wine runs 
over and fills the house with perfume; who inspire us with 
courtesy; who unloose our tongues, and we speak; who 
annoint our eyes, and we see? We say things we never 
thought to have said; for once, our walls of habitual 
reserve vanished, and left us at large; we were children 
playing with children in a wide field of flowers. Steep us, 
we cried, in these influences for days, for weeks, and we 
shall be sunny poets, and will write out in many-colored 
words the romance that you are. Was it Hafiz or Firdousi 
that said of his Persian, Lilla, she was an elemental force, 
and astonished me by her amoimt of life, when I saw her 
day after day radiating, every instant, redundant joy and 
grace on all aroimd her? She was a solvent powerful to rec- 
oncile all heterogeneous persons into one society. Like air 
or water, an element of such a great range of affinities, that 
it combines readily with a thousand substances. Where she 
lis present^ all others will be more than they are wont. She 
was a unit and whole, so that whatsoever she did, became 
her. She had too much sympathy and desire to please, 
than that you could say, her manners were marked with dig- 
nity, yet no princess could surpass her clear and direct 
demeanor on each occasion. She did not study the Persian 
grammar, nor the books of the seven poets, but all the poems 
of the seven seemed to be written ux)on her. For, though 



244 MANNERS 

the bias of her nature was not to thought, but to sympathy, 
yet was she so perfect m her own nature, as to meet intel- 
lectual persons by the fullness of her heart, warming them by 
her sentiments; believing, as she did, that by dealing nobly 
with all, all would show themselves noble. 

I know that this Byzantine pile of Chivalry or Fashion, 
which seems so fair and picturesque to those who look at 
the contemporary facts for science or for entertainment, is 
not equally pleasant to all spectators. The constitution of 
our society makes it a giant's castle to the ambitious youth 
who have not f oimd their names enrolled in its Golden Book, 
and whom it has excluded from its coveted honons and priv- 
ileges. They have yet to learn that its seeming grandeur 
is shadowy and relative: it is great by their allowance: its 
proudest gates will fly open at the approach of their cour- 
age and virtue. For the present distress, however, of those 
who are predisposed to suffer from the t3rrannie8 of this 
caprice, there are easy remedies. To remove your re- 
sistance a couple of miles, or at most four, will conmionly 
relieve the most extreme susceptibihty. For, the advantages 
which fashion values, are plants, which thrive in very con- 
fined localities, in a few streets, namely. Out of this pre- 
cinct, they go for nothing; are of no use in the farm, in 
the forest, in the market, in war, in the nuptial society, in 
the literary or scientific circle, at sea, in friendship, in the 
heaven of thought or virtue. 

But we have lingered long enough in these painted courts. 
The worth of the thing signified must vindicate our taste 
for the emblem. Every thing that is called fashion and 
courtesy humbles itself before the cause and fountain of 
honor, creator of titles and dignities, namely, the great 
heart of love. This is the royal blood, this the fire, which, 
in all countries and contingencies, will work after its kind, 
and conquer and expand all that approaches it. This gives 
new meanings to every fact. This imx)overishe8 the rich, 
suffering no grandeur but its own. What is rich? Are you 
rich enough to help anybody? to succor the unfashionable 



MANNERS 245 

and the eccentric? rich enough to make the Canadian in 
his wagon, the itinerant with his consul's paper which 
commends him "to the charitable/' the swarthy Italian with 
his few broken words of English, the lame pauper himted 
by overseers from town to town, even the pooi insane be- 
sotted wreck of man or woman, feel the noble exception of 
your presence and your house, from the general bleakne^ 
and stoniness; to make such feel that they were greeted with 
a voice which made them both remember and hope? What 
is vulgar, but to refuse the claim on acute and conclusive 
reasons? What is gentle, but to allow it, and give their 
heart and yours one holiday from the national caution? 
Without the rich heart, wealth is an ugly beggar. The 
king of Schiraz could not afford to be so bountiful as the 
poor Osman who dwelt at his gate. Osman had a humanity 
so broad and deep, that although his speech was so bold and 
free with the Koran, as to disgust all the dervishes, yet was 
there never a poor outcast, eccentric, or insane man, some 
fool who had cut off his beard, or who had been mutilated 
under a vow, or had a pet madness in his brain, but fled 
at once to him, — that great heart lay there so sunny and 
hospitable in the center of the country, — ^that it seemed as 
if the instinct of all sufferers drew them to his side. And 
the madness which he harbored, he did not share. Is not 
this to be rich? this only to be rightly rich? 

But I shall hear without pain, that I play the courtier 
very ill, and talk of that which I do not well understand. 
It is easy to see, that what is called by distinction soc- 
iety and fashion, has good laws as well as bad, has much 
that is necessary, and much that is absurd. Too good for 
banning, and too bad for blessing, it reminds us of a tradition 
of the pagan mythology, in any attempt to settle its char- 
acter. "I overheard Jove, one day,'* said Silenus, "talking 
of destroying the earth; he said, it had failed; they were all 
rogues and vixens, who went from bad to worse, as fast as 
the days succeeded each other. Minerva said, she hoped 
not; they were only ridiculous little creatures, with this odd 
circmnstance, that they had a blur, or indeterminate aspect, 



246 MANNERS 

seen far or seen near : if you called them bad, they would ap- 
pear so; if you called them good, they would appear so; and 
there was no one person or action among them which would 
not puzzle her owl, much more all 01ympu8> to know whether 
it was fundamentally bad or good." 



xn 

POLITICS 

Gold and iron are good 

To buy iron and gold; 

All earth's fleece and food 

For their like are sold. 

Boded Merlin wise, 

Proved Napoleon great, — 

Nor kind nor coinage buys 

Aught above its rate. 

Fear, Craft, and Avarioe 

Cannot rear a State. 

Out of dust to build 

What is more than dust, — 

Walls Amphion piled 

Phoebus stablish must. 

When the Muses nine 

With the Virtues meet, 

Find to their design 

An Atlantic seat. 

By green orchard boughs 

Fended from the heat. 

Where the statesman ploughs 

Furrow for the wheat; 

When the Church is social worth. 

When the state-house is the hearth 

Then the perfect State is come. 

The republican at home. 

In deaHng with the State, we ought to remember that its 
institutions are not aboriginal, though they existed before 
we were bom: that they are not 8UX)erior to the citizen: that 
every one of them was once the act of a single man: every 
law and usage was a man's expedient to meet a particular 
case? that they all are imitable, all alterable; we may make 
as good: we may make better. Society is an illusion to the 
young citizen. It lies before him in rigid repose, with cer- 



248 POLITICS 

tain names, men, and institutions, rooted like oak-trees to 
the center, roimd which all arrange themselves the best they 
can. But the old statesman knows that society is fluid; 
there are no such roots and centers; but any particle may 
suddenly become the center of the movement, and compel 
the system to gyrate round it, as every man of strong will, 
like Pisistratus, or Cromwell, does for a time, and every 
man of truth, like Plato, or Paul, does for ever. But pol- 
itics rest on necessary foundations, and cannot be treated 
with levity. Repubhcs aboimd in young civilians, who be- 
lieve that the laws make the city; that grave modifications of 
the policy and modes of living, and employments of the 
population; that commerce, education, and religion, may be 
voted in or out; and that any measure, though it were 
absurd, may be imposed on a people, if only you cdn get 
sufficient voices to make it a law. But the wise know that 
foolish legislation is a rope of sand, which perishes in the 
twisting; that the State must follow, and not lead the char- 
acter and progress of the citizen; the strongest usurper is 
quickly got rid of; and they only who build on Ideas, build 
for eternity: and that the form of government which pre- 
vails, is the expression of what cultivation exists in the pop- 
ulation which x)ermits it. The law is only a memorandimi. 
We are superstitious, and esteem the statute somewhat: so 
much life as it has in the character of living men, is its 
force. The statute stands there to say, yesterday we 
agreed so and so, but how feel ye this article to-day? Our 
statute is a currency, which we stamp with our own por- 
trait: it soon becomes unrecognizable, and in process of time 
will return to the mint. Nature is not democratic, nor 
limited-monarchical, but despotic, and will not be foded or 
abated of any jot of her authority, by the pertest of her sons: 
and as fast as the public mind is open to more intelligence, 
the code is seen to be brute and stammering. It speaks 
not articulately, and must be made to. Meantime the 
education of the general mind never stops. The reveries 
of the true and simple are prophetic. What the tender 
poetic youth dreams, and prays, and paints to-day, but 
shuns the ridicule of saying aloud, shall presently be the 



POLITICS 249 

resolutions of public bodies, then shall be carried as griev- 
ance and bill of rights through conflict and war, and then 
shall be triumphant law and establishment for a himdred 
years, until it gives place, in turn, to new prayers and pic- 
tures. The history of the State sketches in coarse outline 
the progress of thought^ and follows at a distance the del- 
icacy of culture and of aspiration. 

The theory of politics, which has possessed the mind of 
men, and which they have expressed the best they could in 
their laws and in their revolutions, considers persons and 
property as the two objects for whose protection govern- 
ment exists. Of persons, all have equal rights, in virtue of 
being identical in nature. This interest, of course, with its 
whole power demands a democracy. Whilst the rights of 
all as persons are equal, in virtue of their access to reason, their 
rights in property are very unequal. One man owns his 
clothes, and another owns a coimty. This accident, de- 
pending, primarily, on the skill and virtue of the parties, of 
which there is every degree, and, secondarily, on patrimony, 
falls imequally, and its rights, of course, are unequal. 
Personal rights, universally the same, demand a government 
framed on the ratio of the census: property demands a gov- 
ernment framed on the ratio of owners and of owning. 
Laban, who has flocks and herds, wishes them looked after by 
an officer on the frontiers, lest the Midianites shall drive 
them off, and pays a tax to that end. Jacob has no flocks 
or herds, and no fear of the Midianites, and pays no tax to 
the officer. It seemed fit that Laban and Jacob should have 
equal rights to elect the officer, who is to defend their i)er- 
sons, but that Laban, and not Jacob, should elect the officer 
who is to guard the sheep and cattle. And, if the question 
arise whether additional officers or watch-towers should be 
provided, must not Laban and Isaac, and those who must 
sell part of their herds to buy protection for the rest, judge 
better of this, and with more right, than Jacob, who, because 
he is a youth and a traveller, eats their bread and not his 
own. 

In the earliest society the proprietors made their own 
wealth, and so long as it comes to the owners in the direct 



260 POLITICS 

way, no other opinion would arise in any equitable com- 
munity, than that property should make the law for prop- 
erty, and persons the law for persons. 

But property paisses through donation or inheritance to 
those who do not create it. Gift, in one case, makes it as 
really the new owner's, as labor made it the first owner's: 
in the other case, of patrimony, the law makes an owner- 
ship, which will be vaUd in each man's view according to 
the estimate which he sets on the public tranquillity. 

It was not, however, found easy to embody the readily- 
admitted principle, that property should make law for 
property, and persons for persons: since persons and prop- 
erty mixed themselves in every transaction. At last it 
seemed settled, that the rightful distinction was, that the 
proprietors should have more elective franchise than non- 
proprietors, on the Spartan principle of "calling that which 
is just, equal; not that which is equal, just." 

That principle no longer looks so self-evident as it ap- 
peared in former times, partly, because doubts have arisen 
whether too much wei^t had not been allowed in the laws 
to property, and such a structure given to our usages, as 
allowed the rich to encroach on the poor, and to keep them 
poor; but mainly, because there is an instinctive sense, how- 
ever obscure and yet inarticulate, that the whole constitution 
of property, on its present tenures, is injurious, and its in- 
fluence on persons deteriorating and degrading; that truly, 
the only interest for the consideration of the State, is per- 
sons: that property will always follow persons; that the 
highest end of government is the culture of men: and if men 
can be educated, the institutions will share their improve- 
ment, and the moral sentiment will write the law of the land. 

If it be not easy to settle the equity of this question, the 
peril is less when we take note of our natural defences. We 
are kept by better guards than the vigilance of such mag- 
istrates as we connnonly elect. Society alwa3rs consists, in 
greatest part, of yoimg and foolish persons. The old, who 
have seen through the hypocrisy of courts and statesmen, 
die, and leave no wisdom to their sons. They believe their 
own newspapers, as their fathers did at their age. With 



POLITICS 251 

such an ignorant and deceivable majority, States would soon 
run to ruin, but that there are limitations, beyond which 
the folly and ambition of governors cannot go. Things have 
their laws, as well as men; and things refuse to be trifled 
with. Property will be protected. Com will not grow, 
unless it is planted and manured; but the farmer will not 
plant or hoe it unless the chances are a hundred to one, that 
he will cut and harvest it. Under any forms, persons and 
property must and will have their just sway. They exert 
their power, as steadily as matter its attraction. Cover 
up a pound of earth never so cunningly, divide and sub- 
divide it; melt it to hquid, convert it to gas; it will always 
weigh a pound: it will always attract and resist other 
matter, by the full virtue of one pound weight; — and the 
attributes of a person, his wit and his moral energy, will 
exercise, under any law or extinguishing tyranny, their prop- 
er force, — ^if not overtly, then covertly; if not for the law, 
then against it; with right, or by might. 

The boundaries of personal influence it is impossible to fix, 
as persons are organs of moral or supernatural force. Under 
the dominion of an idea, which possesses the minds of multi- 
tudes, as civil freedom, or the religious sentiment, the powers 
of persons are no longer subjects of calculation. A nation 
of men unanimously bent on freedom, or conquer, can 
easily confound the arithmetic of statists, and achieve ex- 
travagant actions, out of all proportion to their means; as 
the Greeks, the Saracens, the Swiss, the Americans, and the 
French have done. 

In like manner, to every particle of property belongs its 
own attraction. A cent is the representative of a certain 
quantity of com or other conunodity. Its value is in the 
necessities of the animal man. It is so much warmth, so 
much bread, so much water, so much land. The law may do 
what it will with the owner of property, its just power will 
still attach to the cent. The law may in a mad freak say, 
that all shall have power except the owners of property; they 
shall have no vote. Nevertheless, by a higher law, the 
property will, year after year, write every statute that re- 
spects property. The non-proprietor will be the scribe of 



252 POUTICJS 

the proprietor. What the owners wish to do, the whole 
power of property will do, either through the law, or else in 
defiance of it. Of course, I speak of all the property, not 
merely of the great estates. When the rich are out-voted, 
as frequently happens, it is the joint treasury of the poor 
which exceeds their accumulations. Every man owns some- 
thing, if it is only a cow or a wheelbarrow, or his arms, and 
so has that property to dispose of. 

The same necessity which secures the rights of person and 
property against the malignity or folly of the magistrate, 
determines the form and methods of governing, which are 
proper to each nation, and to its habit of thought, and nowise 
transferable to other states of society. In this country, we 
are very vain of our political institutions, which are singular 
in this, that they sprung, within the memory of Uving men, 
from the character and condition of the people, which they 
still express with sufficient fidelity, — ^and we ostentatiously 
prefer them to any other in history. They are not better, 
but only fitter for us. We may be wise in asserting the advan- 
tage in modem times of the democratic form, but to other 
states of society, in which religion consecrated the monarch- 
ical, that, and not this, was expedient. Democracy is better for 
us, because the religious sentiment of the present time 
accords better with it. Born democrats, we are nowise 
qualified to judge of monarchy, which, to our fathers living 
in the monarchical idea, was also relatively right. But our 
institutions, though in coincidence with the spirit of the age, 
have not any exemption from the practical defects which 
have discredited other forms. Every actual State is corrupt. 
Good men must not obey the laws too well. What satire on 
government can equal the severity of censure conveyed in 
the word politic, which now for ages has signified cunning, 
intimating that the State is a trick? 

The same benign necessity and the same practical abuse 
appear in the parties into which each State divides itself, of 
opponents and defenders of the administration of the gov- 
ernment. Parties are also founded on instincts, and have 
better guides to their own humble aims than the sagacity of 
their leaders. They have nothing perverse in their origin, but 



POLITICS 263 

rudely mark some real and lasting relation. We might as 
wisely reprove the east wind, or the frost, as a political party, 
whose members, for the most part, could give no account of 
their position, but stand for the defence of those interests in 
which they find themselves. Our quarrel with them begins 
when they quit this deep natural ground at the bidding of 
some leader, and, obeying personal considerations throw 
themselves into the maintenance and defence of x)oints no- 
wise belonging to their system. A party is perpetually 
corrupted by personality. Whilst we absolve the association 
from dishonesty, we cannot extend the same charity to their 
leaders. They reap the rewards of the docility and zeal of 
the masses, which they direct. Ordinarily, our parties are 
parties of circumstance, and not of principle; as, the plant- 
ing interest in conflict with the commercial; the party of 
capitalists, and that of operatives; parties which are identi- 
cal in their moral character, and which can easily change 
groimd with each other, in support of many of their 
measures. Parties of principle, as, religious sects, or the party 
of free-trade, of universal suffrage, of abolition of slavery, of 
aboHtion of capital punishment, degenerate into personalities 
or would inspire enthusiasm. The vice of our leading parties 
in this country (which may be cited as a fair specimen of these 
societies of opinion) is, that they do not plant themselves on 
the deep and necessary grounds to which they are respec- 
tively entitled, but lash themselves to fury in the carrying of 
some local and momentary measure, nowise useful to the 
commonwealth. Of the two great parties, which, at this 
hour, almost share the nation between them, I should say, 
that one haa the best cause, and the other contains the best 
men. The philosopher, the poet, or the religious man, will, 
of course, wish to cast his vote with the democrat, for free- 
trade, for wide suffrage, for the abolition of legal cruelties 
in the penal code, and for facilitating in every manner the 
access of the yoimg and the poor to the sources of wealth and 
power. But he can rarely accept the persons whom the 
so-called popular party propose to him as representatives of 
these hberalities. They have not at heart the ends which 
give to the name of democracy what hope and virtue are in 



264 POLITICS 

it. The spirit of our American radicalism is destructive and 
aimless; it is not loving; it has no ulterior and divine ends; 
but is destructive only out of hatred and selfishness. On the 
other side, the conservative party, composed of the most 
moderate, able, and cultivated part of the x)opulation, is 
timid, and merely defensive of property. It vindicates no 
right, it aspires to no real good, it brands no crime, it pro- 
poses no generous x)oUcy, it does not build, nor write, nor 
cherish the arts, nor foster religion, nor establish schools, nor 
encourage science, nor emancipate the slave, nor befriend 
the poor, or the Indian, or the immigrant. From neither 
party, when in power, has the world any benefit to expect in 
science, art, or humanity, at all commensurate with the re- 
sources of the nation. 

I do not for these defects despair of our republic. We are 
not at the mercy of any waves of chance. In the strife of 
ferocious parties, human nature always finds itself cher- 
ished, as the children of the convicts at Botany Bay are 
found to have as healthy a moral sentiment as other children. 
Citizens of feudal states are alarmed at our democratic in- 
stitutions lapsing into anarchy; and the older and more 
cautious among ourselves are learning from Europeans to 
look with some terror at our turbulent freedom. It is said, 
that in our Ucense of construing the Constitution, and in the 
despotism of public opinion, we have no anchor; and one 
foreign observer thinks he has foimd the safeguard in the 
sanctity of Marriage among us; and another thinks he has 
found it in our Calvinism. Fisher Ames expressed the pop- 
ular security more wisely, when he compared a monarchy 
and a republic, saying, ''that a monarchy is a merchantman, 
which sails well, but will sometimes strike on a rock, and go 
to the bottom; whilst a republic is a raft, which would never 
sink, but then your feet are always in water." No forms 
can have any dangerous importance, whilst we are be- 
friended by the laws of things. It makes no difference how 
many tons weight of atmosphere presses on our heads, so 
long as the same pressure resists it within the lungs. Aug- 
ment the mass a thousandfold, it cannot begin to crush us^ 
as long as reaction is equal to action. The fact of two 



POLITICS 255 

poles, of two forces, centripetal and centrifugal, is universal, 
and each force, by its own activity, develops the other. Wild 
liberty develops iron conscience. Want of liberty, by 
strengthening law and decorum, stupefies conscience. 
"Lynch-law'* prevails only where there is greater hardihood 
and self-subsistency in the leaders. A mob cannot be a 
permanency: everybody's interest requires that it should 
not exist, and only justice satisfies all. 

We must trust infinitely to the beneficent necessity which 
shines through all laws. Human nature expresses itself in 
them as characteristically as in statues, or songs, or rail- 
roads, and an abstract of the codes of nations would be a 
transcript of the conmion conscience. Governments have 
their origin in the moral identity of men. Reason for one is 
seen to be reason for another, .and for every other. There 
is a middle measure which satisfies all parties, be they never 
so many, or so resolute for their own. Every man finds a 
sanction for his simplest claims and deeds in decisions of his 
own mind, which he calls truth and holiness. In these de- 
cisions all the citizens find a perfect agreement, and only 
in these; not in what is good to eat, good to wear, good use 
of time, or what amoimt of land, or of public aid, each is en- 
titled to claim. This truth and justice men presently 
endeavor to make application of, to the measuring of land, 
the apportionment of service, the protection of Hfe and prop- 
erty. Their first endeavors, no doubt, are very awkward. 
Yet absolute right is the first governor; or, every govern- 
ment is an impure theocracy. The idea, after which each 
community is aiming to make and mend its law, is the will 
of the wise man. The wise man, it cannot find in nature, and 
it makes awkward but earnest efforts to secure his govern- 
ment by contrivance; as, by causing the entire people to 
give their voices on every measure; or, by a double choice 
to get the representation of the whole; or, by a selection of 
the best citizens; or, to secure the advantages of efficiency 
and internal peace, by confiding the government to one, who 
may himself select his agents. All forms of government 
S3rmbolize an immortal government, conmion to all dynasties 
and independent of nvmibers, perfect where two men exist. 



266 POLITICS 

perfect where there is only one man. 

Every man's nature is a sufficient advertisement to him 
of the character of his fellows. My right and my wrong, is 
their right and their wrong. Whilst I do what is fit for me, and 
abstain from what is unfit, my neighbor and I shall often 
agree in our means, and work together for a time to one end. 
But whenever I find my dominion over myself not sufficient 
for me, and undertake the direction of him also, I overstep 
the truth, and come into false relations to him. I may have 
so much more skill or strength than he, that he cannot ex- 
press adequately his sense of wrong, but it is a he, and hurts 
like a lie both him and me. Love and nature cannot main- 
tain the assumption: it must be executed by a practical lie, 
namely, by force. This undertaking for another, is the 
blunder which stands in colossal ugliness in the govern- 
ments of the world. It is the same thing in numbers, ad 
in a pair, only not quite so inteUigible. I can see well 
enough a great difference between my setting myself down to 
a self-control, and my going to make somebody else act 
after my views; but when a quarter of the human race 
assume to tell me what I must do, I may be too much dis- 
turbed by the circumstances to see so clearly the absurdity 
of their command. Therefore, all public ends look vague 
and quixotic beside private ones. For, any laws but those 
which men make for themselves, are lau^iable. If I put 
myself in place of my child, and we stand in one thought, 
and see what things are thus or thus, that perception is law 
for him and me. We are both there, both act. But if, 
without carrjring him into the thought, I look over into his 
plot, and, guessing how it is with him, ordain this or that, 
he will never obey me. This is the history of governments 
—one man does something which is to bind another. A 
man who cannot be acquainted with me, taxes me; looking 
from afar at me, ordains that a part of my labor shall go to 
this or that whimsical end, not as I, but as he happens to 
fancy. Behold the consequence. Of all debts, men are 
least willing to pay the taxes. What a satire is this on gov- 
ernment! Everywhere they think they get their money's 
worth; except for these. 



POLITICS 257 

Henoe, the less government we have, the Detter,— 
the fewer laws, and the less confided power. The anti 
dote to this abuse of formal government, is, the influence 
of private character, the growth of the individual; the ap- 
pearance of the principal to supersede the proxy; the ap- 
pearance of the wise man, of whom the existing government, 
is, it must be owned, but a shabby imitation. That which 
all things tend to educe, which freedom, cultivation, inter- 
course, revolutions, go to form and deliver, is character: 
that is the end of nature, to reach unto this coronation of 
her king. To educate the wise man, the State exists; and 
with the appearance of the wise man, the State expires. The 
appearance of character makes the State imnecessary. The 
wise man is the State. He needs no army, fort, or navy, — 
he loves men too well; no bribe, or feast, or palace, to draw 
friends to him: no vantage ground, no favorable circimi- 
stance. He needs no library, for he has not done thinking; 
no church, for he is a prophet; no statute book, for he has 
the lawgiver; no money, for he is value; no road, for he is at 
home where he is; no experience, for the Hfe of the creator 
shoots through him, and looks from his eyes. He has no 
personal friends, for he who has the spell to draw the prayer 
and piety of all men unto him, needs not husband and ed- 
ucate a few, to share with him a select and poetic 
life. His relation to men is angelic; his memory is myrrh to 
them; his presence, frankincense and flowers. 
. We think our civilization near its meridian, but we are yet 
only at the cock-crowing and the morning star. In our 
barbarous society the influence of character is in its in- 
fancy. As a political power, as the rightful lord who is 
to tumble all rulers from their chairs, its presence is hardly 
yet suspected. Malthus and Ricardo quite omit it; the 
Annual Register is silent; in the Conversations' Lexicon, it 
is not set down; the President's Message, the Queen's Speech, 
have not mentioned it; and yet it is never nothing. Every 
thought which genius and piety throw into the world, alters 
the world. The gladiators in the Hsts of power feel, through 
all their frocks of force and simulation, the presence of worths 
J think the very strife of trade and ambition are confession 



258 POLITICS 

of this divinity; and successes in those fields are the poor 
amends, the fig-leaf with which the shamed soul attempts 
to hide its nakedness. I find the like miwilling homage in 
all quarters. It is because we know how much is due from 
us, that we are impatient to show some petty talent as a 
substitute for worth. We are haunted by a conscience of 
this right to grandeur of character, and are false to it. 
But each of us has some talent, can do somewhat useful, or 
graceful, or formidable, or amusing, or lucrative. That we 
do, as an apology to others and to ourselves, for not reaching 
the mark of a good and equal life. But it does not satisfy 
us, whilst we thrust it on the notice of our companions. It 
may throw dust in their eyes, but does not smooth our own 
brow, or give us the tranqiiillity of the strong when we 
walk abroad. We do penance as we go. Our talent is a 
sort of expiation, and we are constrained to reflect on our 
splendid moment, with a certain humiliation, as somewhat 
too fine, and not as one act of many acts, a fair expression 
of our permanent energy. Most persons of ability meet in 
society with a kind of tacit appeal. Each seems to say; 
"I am not all here." Senators and presidents have climbed 
so high with pain enough, not because they think the place 
specially agreeable, but as an apology for real worth, and to 
vindicate their manhod in our eyes. This conspicuous chair 
is their compensation to themselves for being of a poor, cold, 
hard nature. They must do what they can. Like one class 
of forest animals, they have nothing but a prehensile tail: 
climb they must, or crawl. If a man found himself so rich- 
natured that he could enter into strict relations with the 
best persons, and make life serene around him by the dig- 
nity and sweetness of his behavior, could he afford to circum- 
vent the favor of the caucus and the press, and covert rela- 
tions so hollow and pompous, as those of a politician? 
Surely nobody would be a charlatan, who could afford to be 
sincere. 

The tendencies of the times favor the idea of self-govern* 
ment, and leave the individual, for all code, to the rewardf> 
and penalties of his own constitution, which work with moro 
tnergy than we believe, whilst we depend on artificial re-* 



POLITICS 259 

straints. The movement in this direction has been very 
marked in modern history. Much has been blind and dis- 
creditable, but the nature of the revolution is not affected by 
the vices of the revolters; for this is a purely moral force. 
It was never adopted by any party in history, neither can 
be. It separates the individual from all party, and unites 
him, at the same time, to the race. It promises a recogni- 
tion of higher rights than those of personal freedom, or the 
security of property. A man has a right to be employed, to 
be trusted, to be loved, to be revered. The power of love, 
as the basis of a state, has never been tried. We must not 
imagine that all things are lapsing into confusion, if every 
tender protestant be not compelled to bear his part in certain 
social conventions: nor doubt that roads can be built, letters 
carried, and the fruit of labor secured, when the govern- 
ment of force is at an end. Are our methods now so excel- 
lent that all competition is hopeless? Could not a nation of 
friends even devise better ways? On the other hand, let 
not the most conservative and timid fear anything from a 
premature surrender of the bayonet, and the system of force. 
For, according to the order of nature, which is quite superior 
to our will, it stands thus: there will always be a government 
of force, where men are selfish; and when they are pure 
enough to abjure the code of force, they will be wise enough 
to see how these public ends of the post-office, of the high- 
way, of conmierce, and the exchange of property, of mu- 
seums and libraries, of institutions of art and science, can be 
answered. 

We live in a very low state of the world, and pay unwill- 
ing tribute to governments founded on force. There is not, 
among the most religious and instructed men of the most 
religious and civil nations, a reliance on the moral sentiment, 
and a sufficient belief in the unity of things to persuade them 
that society can be maintained without artificial restraints, 
as well as the solar system; or that the private citizen might 
be reasonable, and a good neighbor, without the hint of a jail 
or a confiscation. What is strange too, there never was in 
any man sufficient faith in the power of rectitude, to inspire 
him with thQ b^Qad dflsig^ of renovating the State on the 



260 POLITICS 

principle of right and love. All those who have pretended 
this design, have been partial reformers, and have admitted 
in some manner the supremacy of the bad State. I do not call 
to mind a single human being who has steadily denied the 
authority of the laws, on the simple ground of his own moral 
nature. Such designs, full of genius and full of fate as they 
are, ate not entertained except avowedly as air-pictures. If 
the individual who exhibits them, dare to think them prac- 
ticable, he disgusts scholars and churchmen; and men of 
talent, and women of superior sentiments, cannot hide their 
contempt. Not the less does nature continue to fill the heart 
of youth with suggestions of this enthusiasm, and there are 
now men, — if indeed I can speak in the plural unmber, — 
more exactly, I will say, I have just been conversing with 
one man, to whom no weight of adverse experience will 
make it for a moment appear impossible, that thousands of 
human beings might exercise towards each other the grand- 
est and simplest sentiments, as well as a knot of friends, or 
a pair of lovers. 



xin 

ART 

Because the soul is progressive, it never quite repeats 
itself, but in every act attempts the production of a new 
and fairer whole. This appears in works both of the useful 
and the fine arts, if we employ the popular distinction of 
works according to their aim, either at use or beauty.^ Thus 
is our fine arts, not. jpnitAtinn, but creat ion is the aim. In 
landscapes, the painter should give the iyilg|;|ei3U0h ot a iairer 
creation than we know. The details, the prose of nature, he 
should omit, and give us only the spirit and splendor. He 
should know that the landscape has beauty for his eye, 
becaiise it expresses a thought which is to him good: and 
this, because the same power which sees through his eyes is 
seen in that spectacle; and he will come to value the ex- 
pression of nature, and not nature itself, and so exalt in his 
copy the features that please him. He will give the gloom 
of gloom, and the simshine of sunshine. In a portrait he 
must inscribe the character, and not the features, and must 
esteem the man who sits to him as himself only an imperfect 
picture or likeness of the aspiring original within. 

What is that abridgment and selection we observe in all 
spiritual activity, but itself the creative impulse? for it is 
the inlet of that higher illumination which teaches to convey 
a larger sense by simpler symbols. What is a man but 
nature's finer success in self -explication? What is a man but 
a finer and compactor landscape than the horizon figures, — 
nature's eclecticism? and what is his speech, his love of 
painting, love of nature, but a still finer success, — ^all the 
weary miles and tons of space and bulk left out, and the 
spirit or moral of it contracted into a musical word, or 
the most cunning stroke of the pencil? 

261 



262 ART 

But the artist must emi^oy the ssnnbols in use in his day 
and nation to convey his enlarged sense to his fellow-men. 
Thus the new in art is always formed out of the old. The 
Genius of the Hour always sets his ineffaceable seal on the 
work, and gives it an inexpressible charm for the imagination. 
As far as the spiritual character of the period overpowers 
the artist and finds expression in his work, so far it will 
always retain a certain grandeur, and will represent to future 
beholders the Unknown, the Inevitable, the Divine. No man 
can quite exclude this element of Necessity from his labor. 
No man can quite emancipate himself from his age and 
country, or produce a model in which the education, the 
reUgion, the pohtics, usages, and arts of his times shall have 
no share. Though he were never so original, never so 
wilful and fantastic, he cannot wipe out of his work every 
trace of the thoughts amidst which it grew. The very avoid- 
ance betrays the usage he avoids. Above his will, and out 
of his sight, he is necessitated, by the air he breathes, and 
the idea on which he and his contemporaries Uve and toil, to 
share the manner of his times, without knowing what that 
manner is. Now that which is inevitable in the work has 
a higher charm than individual talent can ever give, in- 
asmuch as thei artist's pen or chisel seems to have been held 
and guided by a gigantic hand to inscribe a line in the his- 
tory of the human race. This circumstance gives a value to 
the Egyptian hieroglyphics, to the Indian, Chinese, and 
Mexican idols, however gross and shapeless. They denote 
the height of the human soul in that hour, and were not 
fantastic, but sprung from a necessity as deep as the world. 
Shall I now add, that the whole extant product of the plas- 
tic arts has herein its highest value as history; as a stroke 
drawn in tiie portrait of that fate, perfect and beautiful, 
according to whose ordinations all beings advance to their 
beatitude? 

Thus, historically viewed, it has been the office of art to 
educate the perception of beauty. We are inmiersed in 
beauty, but our eyes have no clear vision. It needs, by the 
exhibition of single traits, to assist and lead the dormant 
taste. We carve and paint, or we behold what is carved 



ART 263 

and painted, as students of the mystery of Form. The vir- 
tue of art Hes in detachment, in sequestering one object from 
the embarrassing variety. Until on e thing comes out from 
the connection of things, there can b©~ enjoyifientpcbn- 
^aplatioh, but "no though t. Our happiness and unhappi- 
fess arelm pf oauoti vel The infant hes in a pleasing trance; 
but his individual character and his practical power depend 
on his daily progress in the separation of things, and deahng 
with one at a time. Love and all the passions concentrate 
all existence around a single form. It is the habit of certain 
minds to give an all-excluding fulness to the object, the 
thought, the word, they alight upon, and to make that for 
the time the deputy of the world. These are the artists, the 
orators, the leaders of society. The power to detach, and 
to magnify by detaching, is the essence of rhetoric in the 
hands of the orator and the poet. This rhetoric, or power 
to fix the momentary eminency of an object, — so remarkable 
in Burke, in Byron, in Carlyle, — ^the painter and sculptor 
exhibit in color and in stone. The power depends on the depth 
of the artist's insight of that object he contemplates. For 
every object has its roots in central nature, and may of 
course be so exhibited to us as to represent the world. 
Therefore each work of genius is the tyrant of the hour, 
and concentrates attention on itself. For the time, it is the 
only thing worth naming, to do that, — ^be it a sonnet, an 
opera, a landscape, a statue, an oration, the plan of a temple, 
of a campaign, or of a voyage of discovery. Presently we 
pass to some other object, which roimds itself into a whole, 
as did the first; for example, a well-laid garden, — ^and noth- 
ing seems worth doing but the laying out of gardens. I 
should think fire the best thing in the world, if I were not 
acquainted with air, and water, and earth. For it is the 
right and property of all natural objects, of all genuine tal- 
ents, of all native properties whatsoever, to be for their 
moment the top of the world. A squirrel leaping from 
bough to bough, and making the wood but one wide tree 
for his pleasure, fills the eye not less than a hon, is beautiful, 
self-sufficing, and stands then and there for nature. A 
good ballad draws my ear and heart whilst I listen, as much 



264 ART 

ad an epic has done before. A dog drawn by a master, or a. 
litter of pigs, satisfies, and is a reality not less than the 
frescoes of Aiigelo. From this succession of excellent ob- 
jects learn we at last the inmiensity of the world, the opu- 
lence of human nature, which can run out to infinitude in 
any direction. But I also learn that what astonished and 
fascinated me in the first work astonished me in the second 
work also, — that excellence of all things is one. 

The office of painting and sculpture seems to be merely 
initial. The best pictures can easily tell us their last secret. 
The best pictures are rude draughts of a few of the mirac- 
ulous dots and lines and dyes which make up the ever- 
changing "landscape with figures" amidst which we dwell. 
Painting seems to be to the eye what dancing is to the limbs. 
When that has educated the frame to self-possession, to 
nimbleness, to grace, the steps of the dancing-master are 
better forgotten: so painting teaches me the splendor (A 
color and the expression of form, and as I see many pictures 
and higher genius in the art, I see the boimdless opulence of 
the pencil, the indijfferency in which the artist stands free to 
choose out of the possible forms. If he can draw every 
thing, why draw anj^hing? and then is my eye opened to 
the eternal picture which nature paints in the street, with 
moving men and children, beggars and fine ladies, draped 
in red, and green, and blue, and grey; long-haired, grizzled, 
white-faced, black-faced, wrinkled, giant, dwarf, expanded, 
elfish, — capped and based by heaven, earth, and sea. 

A gallery of sculpture teaches more austerely the same 
lesson. As picture teaches the coloring, so sculpture the 
anatomy of form. When I have seen fine statues, and after- 
wards enter a pubhc assembly, I understand well what he 
meant who said, "When I have been reading Homer, all men 
look like giants." I too see that painting and sculpture 
are gymnastics of the eye, its training to the niceties and 
curiosities of its function. There is no statue like this 
living man, with his infinite advantage over all ideal sculp- 
ture, of perpetual variety. What a gallery of art have I 
here! No mannerist made these varied groups and diverse 
original single figures. Here is the artist himself improvising, 



ART 265 

grim and glad, at his block. Now one thought strikes, him^ 
now another; and with each moment he alters the whole 
air, attitude, and expression of his clay. Away with your 
nonsense of oil and easels, of marble and chisels: except to 
open your eyes to the witchcraft of eternal art, they are 
hypocritical rubbish. 

The reference of all production at last to an Aboriginal 
Power explains the traits common to all works of the highest 
art, — ^that they are universally intelligible, that they restore 
to us the simplest states of mind, and are religious. Since 
what skill is therein shown is the reappearance of the orig- 
inal soul, a jet of pure light, it should produce a similar 
impression to that made by natural objects. In happy 
hours nature appears to us one with art; art perfected, — 
the work of genius. And the individual in whom simple 
tastes, and susceptibility to all the great human influences, 
overpower the accidents of a local and special culture, is 
the best critic of art. Though we travel the world over to 
find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not. 
The best of beauty is a finer charm than skill in surfaces, in 
outlines, or rules of art can ever teach, namely, a radiation, 
from the woric of art, of human character, — ^a wonderful 
expression, through stone or canvas or musical sound, of the 
deepest and simplest attributes of our nature, and therefore 
most intelligible at last to those souls which have these attri- 
butes. In the sculptures of the Greeks, in the masonry of 
the Romans, and in the pictures of the Tuscan and Venetian 
masters, the highest charm is the universal language they 
speak. A confession of moral nature, of purity, love, and 
hope, breathes from them all. That which we carry to them, 
the same we bring back more fairly illustrated in the mem- 
ory. The traveller who visits the Vatican, and passes from 
chamber to jchamber through galleries of statues, vases, sar- 
cophagi, and candelabra, through all forms of beauty, cut 
in the richest materials, is in danger of forgetting the sim- 
plicity of the principles out of which they all sprung, and 
that they had their origin from thoughts and laws in his 
own breast. He studies the technical rules on these wonder- 
ful remains, but forgets that these works were not always 
thus constellated; that they are the contributions of many 



266 AST 

ages and many countries; that each came out of the solitary 
workshop of one artist, who toiled perhaps in ignorance of 
the existence of other sculpture, created his work without 
other model save Mfe, household Mfe, and the sweet and 
smart of personal relations, of beating hearts, and meeting 
eyes, of poverty, and necessity, and hope, and fear. These 
were his inspirations, and these are the effects he carries home 
to your heart and mind. In proportion to his force, the 
artist will find in his work an outlet for his proper character. 
He must not be in any manner pinched or hindered by his 
material, but through his necessity of imparting himself, the 
adamant will be wax in his hands, and will allow an adequate 
communication of himself in his full stature and proportion. 
Not a conventional nature and culture need he cumber him- 
self with, nor ask what is the mode in Rome or in Paris; but 
that house, and weather, and manner of living, which 
poverty and the fate of birth have made at once so odious 
and so dear, in the gray unpainted wood cabin on the comer 
of a New Hampshire farm, or in the log-hut of the back- 
woods, or in the narrow lodging where he has endured the 
constraints and seeming of a city poverty, — ^will serve as 
well as any other condition as the symbol of a thought which 
pours itself indifferently through all. 

I remember, when in my younger days I had heard of the 
wonder? of Italian painting, I fancied the great pictures 
would be great strangers; some surprising combination of 
color and form; a foreign wonder, barbaric pearl and gold, 
like the spontoons and standards of the militia, which play 
such pranks in the eyes and imaginations of school-boys. I 
was to see and acquire I knew not what. When I came at 
last to Rome, and saw with eyes the pictures, I found that 
genius left to novices the gay and fantastic and ostentatious, 
and itself pierced directly to the simple and true; that it 
was familiar and sincere; that it was the old, eternal fact I 
had met already in so many forms; unto which I lived; that 
it was the plain you and me I knew so well,— rhad left at 
home in so many conversations. I had hati iihe same ex- 
perience already in a church at Naples. There I saw that 
nothing was changed with me but the place, and said to 



ART 267 

myself, — ^"Thou foolish child, hast thou come out hither, over 
four thousand miles of salt water, to find that which was 
perfect to thee there at home?" That fact I saw again in 
the Accademia at Naples, in the chambers of sculpture; and 
yet again when I came to Rome, and to the paintings of 
Raphael, Angelo, Sacchi, Titian, and Leonardo da Vinci. 
"What, old mole! workest thou in the earth so fast?" It 
had travelled by my side: that which I fancied I had left in 
Boston was here in the Vatican, and again at Milan, and at 
Paris, and made all travelling ridiculous as a treadmill. I 
now require this of all pictures, that they domesticate me, 
not that they dazzle me. Pictures must not be too pictur- 
esque. Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense 
and plain dealing. All great actions have been simple, and 
all great pictures are. 

The Transfiguration, by Raphael, is an eminent example 
of this peculiar merit. A calm, benignant beauty shines over 
all this picture, and goes directly to the heart. It seems 
almost to call you by name. The sweet and sublime face 
of Jesus is beyond praise, yet how it disappoints all florid 
expectations! This familiar, simple, home-speaking coun- 
tenance is as if one should meet a friend. The knowledge of 
picture-dealers has its value; but listen not to their criticism 
when your heart is touched by genius. It was not painted 
for them, — it was painted for you; for such as l\,ad eyes 
capable of being touched by simplicity and lofty emotions. 

Yet when we have said all our fine things about the arts, 
we must end with a frank confession, that the arts, as we 
know them, are but initial. Our best praise is given to what 
they aimed and promised, not to the actual result. He has 
conceived meanly of the resources of man who believes that 
the best age of production is past. The real value of the 
Iliad or the Transfiguration is as signs of power; billows or 
ripples they are of the great stream of tendency; tokens of 
the everlasting effort to produce, which even in its worst 
estate the soul betrays. Art has not yet come to its matu- 
rity, if it do not put itself abreast with the most potent in- 
fluences of the world, if it is not practical and moral, if it 
do not stand in connection with the conscience, if it do not 



268 ART 

make the poor and uncultivated feel that it addresses them 
with a voice of lofty cheer. There is higher work for Art 
than the arts. They are abortive births of an imperfect or 
vitiated instinct. Art is the need to create; but in its es- 
sence, immense and universal^ it is impatient of working with 
lame or tied hands, and of making cripples and monsters, 
such as all pictures and statues are. Nothing less than the 
creation of man and natiure is its end. A man should fbd 
in it an outlet for his whole energy. He may paint and 
carve only as long as he can do that. Art should exhilarate, 
and throw down the walls of circumstance on every side, 
awakening in the beholder the same sense of universal re- 
lation and power which the work evinced in the artist, and 
its highest effect is to make new •artists. 

Already History is old enough to witness the old age and 
disappearance of particular arts. The art of sculpture is 
long ago perished to any real effect. It was originally an 
useful art, a mode of writing, a savage's record of gratitude 
or devotion; and among a people possessed of a wonderful 
perception or form, this childish carving was refined to the 
utmost splendor of effect. But it is the game of a rude and 
youthful people, and not the manly labor of a wise and 
spiritual nation. Under an oak-tree loaded with leaves and 
nuts, imder a sky full of eternal eyes, I stand in a thorough- 
fare; but in the works of our plastic arts, and especially of 
sculpture, creation is driven into a comer. I cannot hide 
from myself that there is a certain appearance of paltriness, 
as of toys, and the trumpery of a theatre, in sculpture. 
Nature transcends all our moods of thought, and its secret 
we do not yet find. But the gallery stands at the mercy of 
our moods, and there is a moment when it becomes frivolous. 
I do not wonder that Newton, with an attention habitually 
engaged on the earth of planets and suns, should have won- 
dered what the Earl of Pembroke found to admire in ''stone 
dolls." Sculpture may serve to teach the pupil how deep is 
the secret of form, how purely the spirit can translate its 
meanings into that eloquent dialect. But the statue will 
look cold and false before that new activity, which needs to 
roll through all things, and is impatient of counterfeits and 



ABT 269 

things not alive. Picture and sculpture are the celebrations 
and festivities of form. But true art is never fixed, but 
always flowing. The sweetest music is not in the oratorio, 
but in the human voice when it speaks from its instant life 
tones of tenderness, truth, or courage. The oratorio has ^ 
already lost its relation to the morning, to the sun and thef^^'^ 
earth, but that persuading voice is in tune with these. All^''^*'^'^:'^' 
works of art should not be detached, but extempore per-*'/*^-*-**' 
formances. A great man is a new statue in every attitude ^'i • / >*k. 
and action. A beautiful woman is a picture which drives all / • [- ^ 
beholders nobly mad. life may be lyric or emc. as well as .* '" 
a poem or a romance. ^-<*^ Zla-^*-*^ c-^-^ &C A-o-*^.^*— » , 

A true announcement of the law of creation, if a man were 
found worthy to declare it, would carry art up into the king- 
dom of nature, and destroy its separate and contrasted ex- 
istence. The fountains of invention and beauty in modem 
society are all but dried up. A popular novel, a theatre, or 
a ball-room, makes us feel that we are all paupers in the 
alms-house of this world, without dignity, without skill or 
industry. Art is as poor and low. The old tragic Necessity, 
which lowers on the brows even of the Venuses and the 
Cupids of the antique, and furnishes the sole apology for the 
intrusion of such anomalous figures into nature, — ^namely, that 
they were inevitable, that the artist was drunk with a passion 
for form, which he could not resist, and which vented itself 
in these fine extravagances, — ^no longer dignifies the chisel or 
the pencil. But the artist and the connoisseur now seek in 
art the exhibition of their talent, or an asylum from the evils 
of life. Men are not well pleased with the figure they make 
in their own imagination, and they flee to art, and convey 
their better sense in an oratorio, a statue, or a picture. Art 
makes the same effort which a seni^al prosperity makes, 
namely, to detach the beautiful from the useful, to do up the 
work as imavoidable, and hating it, pass on to enjoyment. 
These solaces and compensations, this division of beauty 
from use, the laws of nature do not permit. As soon as 
beauty is sought not from religion and love, but for pleasure, 
it degrades the seeker. High beauty is no longer attainable 



270 ART 

by him in cftnvaa or in stone^ in sound or in lyrical construc- 
tion; an eflfeminate, prudent, sickly beauty, which is not 
beauty, is all that can be formed; for the hand can never ex- 
ecute any thing higher than the character can inspire. 

The art that thus separates is itself first separated. Art 
must not be a superficial talent, but must begin farther back 
in man. Now men do not see nature to be beautiful, and 
they go to make a statue which shall be. They abhor men 
as tasteless, dull, and. inconvertible, and console themselvee 
with color-bags and Uodks of marble. They reject life as 
prosaic, and create a omh which they call poetic. They 
despatdi the day's weary chores, and fly to voluptuous rev- 
eries. They eat and drink, that they may afterwards ex- 
ecute the ideal. Thus is art vilified; the name conveys to 
the mind its secondary and bad senses; it stands in the im- 
agination as somewhat contrary to nature, and struck with 
death from the first. Would it not be better to begin higher 
up, — ^to serve the ideal before they eat and drink; to serve 
the ideal in eating and drinking, in drawing the breath, and 
in the functions of life? Beauty must come back to t^ 
useful arts, and the distinction between the, lin e ana tne use^ 
ful arts be forgotten^ If filstory were truly told, it nie were 
nobly spent, it would be no longer easy or possible to dis- 
tinguish the one from the other. In nature all is useful, 
all is beautifuh It is therefore beautiful because it is alive, 
mo^g, reproductive; it is therefore useful because it is 
symmetrical and fair. Beauty will not come at the call of 
a legislature, nor will it repeat in England or America its 
history in Greece. It will come, as always, unannounced, 
and spring up between the feet of brave and earnest men. 
It is in vain that we look for genius to reiterate its miracles 
in the old arts; it is its instinct to find beauty and holiness 
in new and necessary facts, in the field and roadside, in the 
shop and mill. Proceeding from a religious heart, it will 
raise to a divine use the railroad, the insurance-office, the 
joint-stock company, our law, our primary assemblies, our 
commerce, the galvanic battery, the electric jar, the prism, 
and the chemist's retort, in which we seek now only an eco- 
noRUic^ yi^t I§ Wt the selfish and even cruel aspect which 



ART 271 

belongs to our great mechanicftl works, to mills, railways, 
and machinery, the e£fect of the mercenary impulses which 
these works obey? When its errands are noble and ade- 
quate, a steam-boat bridging the Atlantic between Old and 
New England, and arriving at its ports with the punctuality 
of a planet, — ^is a step of man into harmony with nature. 
The boat at St. Petersburgh, which plies along the Lena by 
magnetism, .needs little to make it sublime. When science 
is learned in love, and its powers are wielded by love, they 
will appear the supplements and continuations of the material 
creation. 



XIV 
BEAUTY 

The spiral tendeney of vegetation infects education also. 
Our books approach very slowly the things we most wish 
to know. What a parade we make of our science, and how 
far o£P, and at arm's length, it is from its objects! Our 
botany is all names, not powers: poets and romancers talk 
of herbs of grace and healing; but what does the botanist 
know of the virtues of his weeds? The geologist lays bare 
the strata, and can tell them all on his fingers: but does he 
know what e£Pect passes into the man who builds his house in 
them? what effect on the race that inhabits a granite dielf ? 
what on the inhabitants of marl and of alluvium? 

We should go to the ornithologist with a new feeling, if 
he could teach us what the social birds say, when they sit 
in the autumn coimcil, talking together in the trees. The 
want of sympathy makes his record a dull dictionary. His 
result is a dead bird. The bird is not in its ounces and 
inches, but in its relations to Nature; and the skin or skele- 
ton you show me is no more a heron, than a heap of ashes 
or a bottle of gases into which his bodj- has been reduced, 
is Dante or Washington. The naturalist is led from the 
road by the whole distance of his fancied advance. The 
boy had juster views when he gazed at the shells on the 
beach, or the flowers in the meadow, unable to call them by 
their names, tlian the man in the pride of his nomenclature. 
Astrology interested us, for it tied man to the system. In- 
stead of an isolated beggar, the farthest star felt him, and 
he felt the star. However rash and however falsified by 
pretenders and traders in it, the hint was true and divine, the 
soul's avowal of its large relations, and that climate, century, 
remote natures, as well as near, are part of its biography. 

272 






BEAUTY 673 

Qiemistry takes to pieces, but it does not construct. Al- 
chemy which sought to transmute one element into another, 
to prolong life, to arm with power, — ^that was in the right, j 



I. 



direction. All our science lacks a human side . The ten 
ant is more man the bouse. Bugs and stamens and spores, 
on which we lavish so many years, are not finalities, and 
man, when his powers unfold in order, will take Nature 
along with him, and emit light into all her recesses. The 
human heart concerns us more than the poring into micro- 
scopes, and is larger than can be measured by the pompous 
figures of the astronomer. 

We are just so frivolous and sceptical. Men hold them- 
selves cheap and vile: and yet a man is a fagot of thimder- 
bolts. All the elements pour through his system: he is the 
fiood of the flood, and fire of the fire; he feels the antipodes 
and the pole, as drops of his blood: they are the extension 
of his personality. His duties are measured by that in- 
strument he is; and a right and perfect man would be felt to 
the center of the Copernican system. T is curious that we 
only believe as deep as we live. We do not think heroes 
can exert any more awful power than that surface-play 
which amuses us. A deep man believes in miracles, waits 
for them, believes in magic, believes that the orator will 
decompose his adversary; believes that the evil eye can 
wither, that the heart's blessing can. heal; that love can ex- 
alt talent; can overcome all odds. From a great heart 
secret magnetisms flow incessantly to draw great events. 
But we prize very humble utilities, a prudent husband, a 
good son, a voter, a citizen, and deprecate any romance of 
character; and perhaps reckon only his money value, — ^his 
intellect, his affection, as a sort of bill of exchange, easily 
convertible into fine chambers, pictures, music, and wine. 

The motive of science was the extension of man, on all 
sides, into Nature, till his hands should touch the stars, 
his eyes see through the earth; his ears understand the lan- 
guage of beast and bird, and the sense of the wind; and, 
through his sympathy, heaven and earth should talk with 
him. But that is not our science. These geologies, chem- 
istries, astronomies, seem to make wise, but they leave us 
where they found us. The invention is of use to the inven- 



274 BEAUTY 

tor, of questionable help to any other. The formulas of 
science are like the papers in your pocket-book, of no value 
to any but the owner. Science in England, in America, ia 
'jealous of theory, hate the name of love and moral purpose. 
There's a revenge for this inhumanity. WhaF manner of 
man does science make? The boy is not attracted. He 
says, I do not wish to be such a kind of man as my professor 
is. The collector has dried all the plants in his herbal, but 
he has lost weight and humor. He has got all snakes and 
lizards in his phials, but science has done for him also, and 
has put the man into a bottle. Our reliance on the phy- 
sician is a kind of despair of ourselves. The clergy have 
bronchitis, which does not seem a certificate of spiritual 
health. Macready thought it came of the falsetto of their 
voicing. An Indian prince, Tisso, one day riding in the 
forest, saw a herd of elk sporting. "See how happy," he said, 
"these browsing elks are! Why should not priests, lodged 
and fed comfortably in the temples, also amuse themselves?" 
Returning home, he imparted this reflection to the king. 
The king, on the next day, conferred the sovereignty on him, 
saying, "Prince, adminster this empire for seven days: at 
the termination of that period, I shall put thee to death." 
At the end of the seventh day, the king inquired, "From 
what cause hast thou become so emaciated?" He answered, 
"Prom the horror of death." The monarch rejoined: 
"Live, my child, and be wise. Thou hast ceased to take 
recreation, saying to thyself, In seven days I shall be put to 
death. These priests in the temple incessantly meditate on 
death; how can they enter into healthful diversions?" 
But the men of science or the doctors or the clergy are not 
victims of their pursuits, more than others. The miller, 
the lawyer, and the merchant dedicate themselves to their 
own details, and do not come out men of more force. Have 
they divination, grand aims, hospitality of soul, and the 
equality to any event, which we demand in man, or only 
the reactions of the mill, of the wares, of the chicane? 

No object really interests us but man, and in man only 
his superiorities; and though we are aware of a perfect law 
in Nature, it has fascination for us only through its relation 



BEAUTY 275 

to him, of, as it is rooted in the mind. At the birth of Winck- 
elmann, more than a hundred years ago, side by side with 
this arid, departmenal, post-mortem science, rose an en- 
thusiasm in the study of Beauty; and perhaps some sparks 
from it may yet light a conflagration in the other. Know- 
ledge of men, knowledge of manners, the power of form, 
and our sensibihty to personal influence, never go out of 
fashion. These are facts of a science which we study without 
book, whose teachers and subjects are always near us. 

So inveterate is our habit of criticism, that much of our 
knowledge in this direction belongs to the chapter of 
pathology. The crowd in the street oftener furnishes de- 
gradations than angels or redeemers; but they all prove 
the transparency. Every spirit makes its house; and we can 
give a shrewd guess from the house to the inhabitant. But 
not less does Nature furnish us with every sign of grace and 
goodness. The delicious faces of children, the beauty of 
school-girls, "the sweet seriousness of sixteen," the lofty 
air of well-bom, well-bred bojrs, the passionate histories 
in the looks and manners of youth and early manhood, and 
the varied power in all that well-known company that 
escort us through life, — ^we know how these forms thrill, 
paralyze, provoke, inspire, and enlarge us. 

Beauty is the form under which the intellect prefers to^ 
study the world. All pnvilege is that of beautyj Tor "there 
are many beauties; as, of general nature, of the human face 
and form, of manners, of brain, or method, moral beauty, or 
beauty of the soul. 

The ancients believed that a genius or demon, took posses- 
sion at birth of each mortal, to guide him; that these genii 
were sometimes seen as a flame of fire partly inamersed in 
the bodies which they governed; — on an evil man, resting on 
his head; in a good man, mixed with his substance. They 
thought the same genius, at the death of its ward, entered a 
new-bom child, and they pretended to guess the pilot, by 
the sailing of the ship. We recognize obscurely the same 
fact, though we give it our own names. We say^ that every 
man is entitled to be valued by his best moment. We meas- 
ure our friends so. We know, they have intervale of folly, 



, 276 BEAUTY 

whereof we take no heed, but wait the reappearings of the 
genius, which are sure and beautiful. On the other side, 
everybody knows people who appear bedridden, and who, 
with all degrees of ability, never impress us with the air of 
free agency. They know it too, and peep with their eyes 
to see if you detect their sad plight. We fancy, could we 
pronounce the solving word, and disenchant them, the cloud 
would roll up, the little rider would be discovered and un- 
seated, and they would regain their freedom. The remedy 
seems to be never far off, since the first step into thought 
lifts this mountain of necessity. Thought is the pent air- 
ball which can rive the planet, and the beauty which certain 
objects have for him is the friendly fire which expands the 
thought, and acquaints the prisoner that liberty and power 
await him. 

The question of Beauty takes us out of surfaces, to 
thinking of the foundations of things. Goethe said: ''The 
beautiful is a manifestation of secret laws of Nature, which, 
but for this appearance, had been forever concealed from 
us.'' And the working of this deep instinct makes ail the 
excitement — ^much of it superficial and absurd enough — 
about works of art, which leads armies of vain travellers 
every year to Italy, Greece, and Egypt. Every man values 
every acquisition he makes in the science of beauty, above 
his possessions. The most useful man in the most useful 
world, so long as only conmiodity was served, would remain 
unsatisfied. But, as fast as he sees beauty, life acquires a 
very high value. 

I am warned by the ill fate of many philosophers not to 
attempt a definition of Beauty. I will rather enumerate a 
few of its qualities. We ascribe beauty to that which is 
simple; which has no superfluous parts; which exactly an- 
swers its end; which stands related to all things; which is 
the mean of many extremes. It is the most enduring qual- 
ity, and the most ascending quality. We say love is blind, 
and the figure of Cupid is drawn with a bandage round his 
eyes. Blind: — yes, because he does not see what he does 
not like; but the diarpest-sighted hunter in the universe is 
Love, for finding what he seeks, and only that; and the 



BEAUTY 277 

m3rthoIogist6 tell us, that Vulcan was painted lame, and Cupid 
blind, to call attention to the fact, that one was all limbs, 
and the other, all eyes. In the true mythology, Love is 
an inmiortal child, and Beauty leads him as a guide: nor 
can we express a deeper sense than when we say, Beauty is 
the pilot of the young soul. 

Beyond their sensuous dehght, the forms and colors of 
Nature have a new charm for us in our perception, that not 
one ornament was added for ornament, but each is a sign 
of some better health, or more excellent action. Elegance of 
form in bird or beast, or in the human figure, marks some 
excellence of structure: or beauty is only an invitation from 
what belongs to us. T is a law of botany, that in plants, 
the same virtues follow the same forms. It is a rule of 
largest application, true in a plant, true in a loaf of bread, 
that in the construction of any fabric or organism, any real 
increase of fitness to its end, is an increase of beauty. 

The lesson taught by the study of Greek and of Gothic 
art, of antique and of Pre-Raphaelite painting, was worth 
all the research, — namely, tiiat all beauty must be organic: 
that outside embellishment is deformity! Ft is the soundness 
of the bones that ultimates itself in a peach-bloom com- 
plexion: health of constitution that makes the sparkle and 
the power of the eye. T is the adjustment of the size and 
of the joining of the sockets of the skeleton, that gives grace 
of outline and the finer grace of movement. The cat and 
the deer cannot move or sit inelegantly. The dancing- 
master can never teach a badly built man to walk well. The 
tint of the flower proceeds from its root, and the lustres of 
the sea-shell begin with its existence. Hence our taste in 
building rejects paint, and all shifts, and shows the original 
grain of the wood: refuses pilasters and columns that support 
nothing, and allows the real supporters of the house honestly 
to show themselves. Eveiy jiecessaQr_^ or orgamc^actiQj^ 
ple ases, the beholder. A man leaHing a horse to water, a 
farmer sowmg seed, tne labors of haymakers in the field, 
the carpenter building a ship, the smith at his forge, or, 
whatever useful labor, is becoming to the wise eye. But if 
it is done to be seen, it is mean. How beautifid are ships 



^78 BfiAOTY 

on the sea! but ships in the theatre,-H)r ships kept for 
picturesque effect on Virginia Water, by George IV., and 
men hired to stand in fitting costumes at a penny an hour! 
— ^What a difference in effect between a battalion of troops 
marching to action, and one of our independent compa- 
nies on a holiday! In the midst of a military show, and a 
festal procession gay with banners, I saw a boy seize an old 
tin pan that lay resting under a wall, and poising it on the 
top of a stick, he set it turning, and made it describe the 
most elegant imaginable curves, and drew away attention 
from the decorated procession by this startling beauty. 

Another text from the mythologists. The Greeks fabled 
that Venus was bom of the foam of the sea. Nothing inter- 
ests us which is stark or bounded, but only what streams 
with life, what is in act or endeavor to reach somewhat 
beyond. The pleasure a palace or a temple gives the eye, 
is, that an order and method has been communicated to 
stones, so that they speak and geometrize, become tender or 
sublime with expression. Beauty is the moment of tran- 
sition, as if the form were just ready to flow into other 
forms. Any fixedness, heaping, or concentration on one 
feature, — a long nose, a sharp chin, a hump-back, — ^is the 
reverse of the flowing, and therefore deformed. Beautiful 
as is the symmetry of any form, if the form can move, we 
seek a more excellent symmetry. The interruption of 
equilibrium stimulates the eye to desire the restoration of 
symmetry, and to watch the steps through which it is at- 
tained. This is the charm of running water, sea-waves, the 
flight of birds, and the locomotion of animals. This is the 
theory of dancing, to recover continually in changes the 
lost equilibrium, not by abrupt and angular, but by gradual 
and curving movements. I have been told by persons of 
experience in matters of taste, that the fashions follow a 
law of gradation, and are never arbitrary. The new mode is 
always only a step onward in the same direction as the last 
mode; and a cultivated eye is prepared for and predicts the 
new fashion. This fact suggests the reason of all mistakes 
and offence in our own modes. It is necessary in music, when 
you strike a discord, to let down the ear by an intermediate 



BEAUTY 278 

note or two to the accord again: and many a good experi- 
ment, bom of good sense, and destined to succeed, fails, only 
because it is offensively sudden. I suppose, the Parisian 
milliner who dresses the world from her imperious boudoir, 
will know how to reconcile the Bloomer costume to the eye 
of mankind, and make it triumphant over Pimch himself, 
by interposing the just gradations. I need not say how wide 
the same law ranges; and how much it can be hoped to 
effect. All that is a httle harshly claimed by progressive 
parties may easily come to be conceded without question, 
if this rule be observed. Thus the circumstances may be 
easily imagined, in which woman may speak, vote, argue 
causes, legislate, and drive a coach, and all the most naturally 
in the world, if only it come by degrees. To this streaming 
or flowing belongs the beauty that all circular movement 
has; as, the circulation of waters, the circulation of the 
blood, the periodical motion of planets, the annual wave of 
vegetation, the action and reaction of Nature; and, if we 
follow it out, this demand in our thought for an ever- 
onward action is the argument for the immortahty. 

One more text from the mjrthologists is to the same pur- ^ 
pose, — Beauty rides on a lion. Beauty rests on necessities, n** 
The line of beauty is the result of perfect economy. The cell 
of the bee is bmlt at tnat angle wmch gives the most strength 
with the least wax; the bone or the quill of the bird gi^ 
the most alar strength with the least weight. "Itwthe 
purgation of superfluities." said Michel Angelo. There is 
not a particle to spare m natural structures. There is a 
compelling reason in the uses of the plant, for every novelty 
of color or form: and our art saves material, by more skil- 
ful arrangement, and reaches beauty by taking every super- 
fluous ounce that can be spared from a wall, and keeping all 
its strength in the poetry of columns. In rhetoric, this 
art of omission is a chief secret of power, and, in general, it 
is proof of high culture, to say the greatest matters in the 
simplest way. 

Veracity first of all, and forever. Rien de beau que le 
vrai. In all design, art lies in making your object prominent, 
but there is aprior part in choosing objects that are prom- 





280 BEAUTY 

ioent. The fine arts have nothing casual, but spring from 
the instincts of the nations that created them. 

Beauty is the quality which makes to endure. In a house 
that I know^ I have noticed a block of spermaceti lying 
about closets and mantel-pieces, for twenty years together, 
simply because the tallow-man gave it the form of a rabbit; 
and, I suppose, it may continue to be lugged about im- 
changed for a century. Let an artist scrawl a few lines or 
figures on the back of a letter, and that scrap of paper is 
rescued from danger, is put in portfolio, is framed and 
glazed, and, in proportion to the beauty of the lines drawn, 
will be kept for centuries. Bums writes a copy of verses, 
and sends them to a newspaper, and the human race take 
charge of them that they shall not perish. 

As the flute is heard farther than the cart, see how surely 
a beautiful form strikes the fancy of men, and is copied 
and reproduced without end. How many copies are there 
of the Belvedere Apollo, the Venus, the Psyche, the War- 
wick Vase, the Parthenon, and the Temple of Vesta? These 
are objects of tenderness to all. In our cities, an ugly 
building is soon removed, and is never repeated, but any 
beautiful building is copied and improved upon, so that 
all masons and carpenters work to repeat and preserve the 
agreeable forms, whilst the ugly ones die out. 

The felicities of design in art, or in works of Nature, are 
shadows or forerunners of that beauty which reaches its 
perfection in the human form. All men are its lovers. 
Wherever it goes, it creates joy and hilarity, and every- 
thing is permitted to it. It reaches its height in woman. 
"To Eve," say the Mahometans, "God gave two thirds of 
all beauty." A beautiful woman is a practical poet, taming 
her savage mate, planting tenderness, hope, and eloquence 
in all whom she approaches. Some favors of condition 
must go with it, since a certain serenity is essential, but we 
love its reproofs and superiorities. Nature wishes that wo- 
man should attract man, yet she often cunningly moulds into 
her face a little sarcasm, which seems to say, "Yes, I am 
willing to attract, but to attract a little better kind of man 
than any I yet behold." French memoires of the fifteenth 



BEAUTY 281 

oe&tury celebrate the name of Pauline de Viguiere, a vir- 
tuous and accomplished maiden, who so fired the enthu- 
siasm of her contemporaries, by her enchanting form, that 
the citizens of her native city of Toulouse obtained the aid 
of the civil authorities to compel her to appear publicly on 
the balcony at least twice a week, and, as often as she showed 
herself, the crowd ivas dangerous to life. Not less, in Eng- 
land, in the last century, was the fame of the Gunnings, of 
whom Elizabeth married the Duke of Hamilton; and Maria, 
the Earl of Coventry. Walpole says: "The concourse was 
so great, when the Duchess of Hamilton was presented at 
court, on Friday, that even the noble crowd in the drawing- 
room clambered on chairs and tables to look at her. There 
are mobs at their doors to see them get into their chairs, and 
people go early to get places at the theatres, when it is 
known they will be there." "Such crowds," he adds, else- 
where, "flock to see the Duchess of Hamilton, that seven 
hundred people sat up all night, in and about an inn, in 
Yorkshire, to see her get into her post-chaise next morning." 

But why need we console ourselves with the fames of 
Helen of Argos, or Corinna, or Pauline of Toulouse, or the 
Duchess of Hamilton? We all know this magic very well, 
or can divine it. It does not hurt weak eyes to look into 
beautiful eyes never so long. Women stand related to 
beautiful I^ature around us, and the enamored youth mixes 
their form with moon and stars, with woods and waters, and 
the pomp of sunmier. They heal us of awkwardness by 
their words and looks. We observe their intellectual in- 
fluence on the most serious student. They refine and clear 
his mind; teach him to put a pleasing method into what is 
dry and difficult. We talk to them and wish to be listened 
to; we fear to fatigue them, and%cquire a facility of ex- 
pression which passes from conversation into habit of style. 

That Beauty is the normal state, is shown by the perpetual 
effort of Nature to attain it. Mirabeau had an ugly face 
on a handsome ground; and we see faces every day which 
have a good type, but have been marred in the casting: a 
proof that we are all entitled to beauty, should have been 
beautiful, if our ancestors had kept the laws, — as every lily 



282 BEAUTY 

and every rose is well. But our bodies do not fit us, but 
caricature and satirize us. Thus, short legs, which constrain 
to short, mincing steps, are a kind of personal insult and 
contumely to the owner; and long stilts, again, put him at 
perpetual disadvantage, and force him to stoop to the gen- 
eral level of mankind. Martial ridicules a gentleman of his 
day whose countenance resembled the face of a swimmer 
seen under water. Saadi describes a schoolmaster ''so ugly 
and crabbed, that a sight of him would derange the ecstasies 
of the orthodox." Faces are rarely true to any ideal tjrpe, 
but are a record in sculpture of a thousand anecdotes of 
whim and folly. Portrait painters say that most faces and 
forms are irregular and unsymmetrical; have one eye blue, 
and one gray; the nose not straight; and one shoulder higher 
than another; the hair unequally distributed, etc. The 
man is physically as well as metaphysically a thing of 
shreds and patches, borrowed imequally from good and 
bad ancestors, and a misfit from the start. 

A beautiful person, among the Greeks, was thought to 
betray by this sign some secret favor of the immortal gods; 
and we can pardon pride, when a woman possesses such a 
figure, that wherever she stands, or moves, or throws a 
shadow on the wall, or sits for a portrait to the artist, she 
confers a favor on the world. And yet — ^it is not beauty 
that inspires the deepest passion. Beauty without grace 
is the hook without the bait. Beauty, without expression, 
tires. Abbe Menage said of the President Le Bailleul, 
"that he was fit for nothing but to sit for his portrait." A 
Greek epigram intimates that the force of love is not shown 
by the courting of beauty, but when the like desire is in- 
flamed for one who is ill-favored. And petulant old gentle- 
men, who have chanced^o suffer some intolerable weariness 
from pretty people, or who have seen cut flowers to some 
profusion, or who see, after a world of pains have been 
successfully taken for the costiune, how the least mistake in 
sentiment takes all the beauty out of your clothes, — ^affirm, 
that the secret of ugliness consists not in irregularity, but in 
being iminteresting. 

We love any forms, however ugly, from which great qual- 



BEAUTY 283 

ities shine. If command, eloquence, art, or invention exist 
in the most deformed person, all the accidents that usually 
displease, please, and raise esteem and wonder higher. The 
great orator was an emaciated, insignificant person, but he was 
all brain. Cardinal De Retz says of De Bouillon, "With the 
physiognomy of an ox, he had the perspicacity of an eagle." 
It was said of Hooke, the friend of Newton, "He is the most, 
and promises the least, of any man in England." "Since I 
am so ugly," said Du Guesclin, "it behooves that I be bold." 
Sir Philip Sidney, the darling of mankind, Ben Jonson tells 
us, "was no pleasant man in countenance, his face being 
spoiled with pimples, and of high blood, and long." Those 
who have ruled human destinies, like planets, for thousands 
of years, were not handsome men. If a man can raise a 
small city to be a great kingdom, can make bread cheap, 
can irrigate deserts, can join oceans by canals, can subdue 
steam, can organize victory, can lead the opinions of man- 
kind, can enlarge knowledge, 't is no matter whether his 
nose is parallel to his spine, as it ought to be, or whether he 
has a nose at all; whether his legs are straight, or whether 
his legs are amputated; his deformities will come to be 
reckoned ornamental and advantageous on the whole. This 
is the triumph of expression, degrading beauty, charming us 
with a power so fine and friendly and intoxicating, that it 
makes admired persons insipid, and the thought of passing 
our lives with them insupportable. There are faces so 
fluid with expression, so flushed and rippled by the play of 
thought, that we can hardly find what the mere features 
really are. When the delicious beauty of lineaments loses 
its power, it is because a more delicious beauty has appeared; 
that an interior and durable form has been disclosed. Still, 
Beauty rides on her lion, as before. Still, "it was for beauty 
that the world was made." The lives of the Italian artists, 
who established a despotism of genius amidst the dukes and 
kings and mobs of their stormy epoch, prove how loyal men 
in all times are to a finer brain, a finer method, than their 
own. If a man can cut such a head on his stone gate-post 
as shall draw and keep a crowd about it all day, by its grace, 
good-nature, and inscrutable meaning; — ^if a man can 



284 BEAUTY 

build a plain cottage with such symmetry, as to make all the 
fine palaces look cheap and vulgar; can take such advantage 
of Nature that all her powers serve him; making use of 
geometry, instead of expense; tapping a mountain for his 
water-jet; causing the sun and moon to seem only the dee- 
orations of his estate; this is still the legitimate dominion 
of beauty. 

The radiance of the human form, though sometimes 
astonishing, is only a burst of beauty for a few years or a 
few months, at the perfection of youth, and in most, rapidly 
declines. But we remain lovers of it, only transferring our 
interest to interior excellence. And it is not only admirable 
in singular and salient talents, but also in the world of man- 
ners. 

But the sovereign attribute remains to be noted. Things 
are pretty, graceful, rich, elegant, handsome, but, until they 
speak to the imagination, not yet beautiful. This is the 
reason why beauty is still escaping out of all analysis. It is 
not yet possessed, it cannot be handled. Proclus sajrs, "It 
swims on the light of forms." It is properly not in the form, 
but in the mind. It instantly deserts possession, and flies 
to an object in the horizon. If I could put my hand on the 
north star, would it be as beautiful? The sea is lovely, but 
when we bathe in it, the beauty forsakes all the near water. 
For the imagination and senses cannot be gratified at the 
same time. Wordsworth rightly speaks of "a light that 
never was on sea or land," meaning, that it was supplied by 
the observer, and the Welsh bard warns his countrywomen, 
that 

"Half of their charms with Cadwallon shall die." 

The new virtue which constitutes a thing beautiful is a cer- 
tain cosmical quality, or, a power to suggest relation to 
the whole world, and so lift the object out of a pitiful in- 
dividuality. Every natural feature — sea, sky, rainbow, 
flowers, musical tone — has in it somewhat which is not 
private, but universal, speaks of that central benefit which 
is the soul of Nature, and thereby is beautiful. And, in 
chosen men and women, I find somewhat in form, speech, and 



BEAUTY 285 

manners, which is not of their person and family, but of a 
humane, catholic, and spiritual character, and we love them 
as the d^y. They have a largeness of suggestion, and their 
face and manners carry a certain grandeur, like time and 
justice. 

The feat of the imagination is in showing the convert- 
ibility of everything into every other thing. Facts which 
had never before left their stark common sense suddenly 
figure as Eleusinian mysteries. My boots and chair and 
candlestick are fairies in disguise, meteors and constellations. 
All the facts in Nature are nouns of the intellect, and make 
the graiomar of the eternal language. Every word has a 
double, treble, or centuple use and meaning. What! has 
my stove and pepper-pot a false bottom! I cry you mercy, 
good shoe-box! I did not know you were a jewel-case. 
Chaff and dust begin to sparkle, and are clothed about with 
immortality. And there is a joy in perceiving the represen- 
tative or symbolic character of a fact, which no bare fact or 
event can ever give. There are no days in life so memorable 
as those which vibrated to some stroke of the imagination. 

The poets are quite right in decking their mistresses with 
the spoils of the landscape, flower-gardens, gems, rainbows, 
flushes of morning, and stars of night, since all beauty points 
at identity, and whatsoever thing does not express to me 
the sea and sky, day and night, is somewhat forbidden and 
wrong. Into every beautiful object there enters somewhat 
immeasurable and divine, and just as much into form 
bounded by outlines, like mountains on the horizon, as into 
tones of music, or depths of space. Polarized light showed 
the secret architecture of bodies; and when the second- 
sight of the mind is opened, now one color or form or 
gesture, and now another, has a pungency, as if a more in- 
terior ray had been emitted, disclosing its deep holdings in 
the frame of things. 

The laws of this translation we do not know, or why one 
feature or gesture enchants, why one word or syllable in- 
toxicates, but the fact is familiar that the fine touch of 
the eye, or a grace of manners, or a phrase of poetry, plants 
wings at our shoulders; as if the Divinity, in his approaches, 



286 BEAUTY 

lifts away monntams of obfitruction, and deigns to draw a 
truer line which the mind knows and owns. This is that 
haughty force of beauty, "vis superba formoB," which the 
poets praise, — ^under cahn and precise outline, the immeas- 
urable and divine Beauty hiding all wisdom and power in 
its calm sky. 

All high beauty has a moral element in it, a nd I find the 
antique sculpture as etlucal as Marcus Antoninus: and the 
beauty ever in proportion to the depth of thought. Gross 
and obscure natures, however decorated, seem impure 
shambles; but character gives splendor to youth, and awe to 
wrinkled skin and gray hairs. An adorer of truth we can 
not choose but obey, and the woman who has shared with 
us the moral sentiment, — ^her locks must appear to us sub- 
lime. Thus there is a climbing scale of cidture, from the 
first agreeable sensation which a sparkling gem or a scarlet 
stain affords the eye, up through fair outlines and details of 
the landscape, features of the human face and form, signs 
and tokens of thought and character in manners, up to the 
ineffable mysteries of the intellect. Wherever we begin, 
thither our steps tend: an ascent from the joy of a horse in 
his trappings, up to the perception of Newton, that the globe 
on which we ride is only a larger apple falling from a larger 
tree; up to the perception of Plato, that globe and universe 
are rude and early expressions of an all-dissolving Unity, — 
the first stair on the scale to the temple of the Mind. 







XV 

THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR 

An Oration delivered before the Phi Beta Kappa Society, 
at Cambridge, August 31, 1837 

Mr. President and Gentlemen, 

I greet you on the re-commeiicement of our literary year. 
Our anniversary is one of hope, and, perhaps, not enough of 
labor. We do not meet for games of strength or skill, for 
the recitation of histories, tragedies, and odes, like the an- 
cient Greeks; for parliaments of love and poesy, like the 
Troubadours; nor for the advancement of science, like our 
contemporaries in the British and European capitals. Thus 
far, our holiday has been simply a friendly sign of the sur- 
vival of the love of letters amongst a people too busy to 
give to letters any more. As such, it is precious as the sign 
of an indestructible instinct. Perhaps the time is already 
come, when it ought to be, and will be something else; when 
the sluggard intellect of this continent will look from under 
its iron lids, and fill the postponed expectation of the world 
with something better than the exertions of mechanical 
skill. QujT day of dependence, our long apprenticeship to 
the learning of other lands, draws to a close. The millions, 
that around us are rushing into life, cannot always be fed on 
the sere remains of foreign harvests. Events, actions arise, 
that must be sung, that will sing themselves. Who can 
doubt, that poetry will revive and lead in a new age, as the 
star in the constellation Harp, which now flames in our 
zenith, astronomers announce, shall one day be the polenstar 
for a thousand years? 

In this hope, I accept the topic which not only usage, but 
the nature of our association, seem to prescribe to this day 

«87 



288 THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR 

— ^the American Scholar. Year by year, we come up 
hither to read one more chapter of his biography. Let us 
inquire what hght new days and events have thrown on his 
character, and his hopes. 

It is one of those fables^ which, out of an unknown an- 
tiquity, convey an unlooked-for wisdom, that the gods, in 
the beginning, divided Man into men, that he might be more 
helpful to himself; just as the hand was divided into fingers, 
the better to answer its end. 

The old fable covers a doctrine ever new and sublime; 
that there is One Man, — ^present to all particular men only 
partially, or through one faculty; and that you must take 
the whole society to find the whole man. Man is not a 
farmer, or professor, or an engineer, but he is all. Man is 
priest, and scholar, and statesman, and producer, and 
soldier. In the divided or social state, these functions are 
parcelled out to individuals, each of whom aims to do his 
stint of the joint work, whilst each other performs his. The 
fable implies, that the indmdual, to possess himself, must 
sometimes return from his (Am labor to embrace all the other 
laborers. But unfortunaWly, this original unit, this 
fountain of power, has been so distributed to multitudes, 
has been so minutely subdivided and peddled out, that it 
is spilled into drops, and cannot be gathered. The state of 
society is one in which the members have suffered amputa- 
tion from the tnmk, and strut about so many walking mon- 
sters, — ^a good finger, a neck, a stomach, an elbow, but never 
a man. 

Man is thus metamorphosed into a thing, into many things. 
The planter, who is Man sent out into the field tp gather 
food, is seldom cheered by any idea of the true dignity of his 
ministry. He sees his \ bushel and his cart, and nothing 
beyond, and sinks into the farmer, instead of Man on the 
farm. The tradesman scarcely ever gives a?i ideal worth to 
his work, but is ridden by the routine of his craft, and the 
soul is subject to dollars. The priest becomes a form; the 
attorney, a statute-book; the mechanic, a machine; the 
sailor, a rope of a ship. 

In this (fistribution of functions, the scholar is the dele« 






THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR 289 

gated iiitellect. In the right s tate, he ia Man r&infeinp. In 
the degenerate state, when theTlBfim of society, he {enX to 
become a mere thinker, or, still worse, the parrot of other 
men's thinking. 

In this view of him, as Man Thinking, the theory of his 
office is contained. Him nature s(^cits with all her placid, 
all her monitory pictures; him the past instructs; him the 
future invites. Is not, indeed, every man a student, and do 
not all things exist for the student's behoof? And, finally, 
is not the true scholar the only true master? But the old 
oracle said, "All things have two handles: beware of the 
wrong one." In life, too often, the scholar errs with man- 
kind and forfeits l|is privilege. Let us see him in his school, 
and consider himqn reference to the main influences he 
receives. *i 

I. <rhe first in ^mie and first in importance of the in- 
fluences upon the mind is oj that nature. Every day, the 
sun; and, after sunset, night and her stars. Ever the winds 
blow; ever the grass grows. Every day, men and women, 
conversing, beholding and beholden. The scholar is he o f 
men, whom this spectacle most engages^ He must settle 
its value in his mina! Wj^pt ia nflt^^rp! tn Hit^? ^There is 
never a beginning, there is never an end, to the inexplicable 
continuity of this web of God, but always circular power re- 
turning into itself. Therein it resembles his own spirit, 
whose beginning, whose ending, he never can find, — so 
entire, so boundless. Far, too, as her splendors shine, system 
on system shooting like rays, upward, downward, without 
center, without circumference, — in the mass and in the par- 
ticle, nature hastens to render account of herself to the mind. 
Classification begins. To the young mind, every thing in 
individuals, stands by itself. By and by, it finds how to 
join two things, and see in them one nature; then three, 
then three thousand; and so, tyrannized over by its own 
unifyfag instinct, it goes on tymg things together, dimin- 
ishing anomalies, discovering roots rimning under ground, 
whereby contrary and remote things cohere, and flower out 
from one stem. It presently learns, that, since the dawn of 
history, there has bee^ a constant accumulation and das- 



290 \ THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR 

sifying of f^ts. But what is classification but the per- 
ceiving that theise objects are not chaotic, and are not foreign, 
but have a law which is also a law of the human mind? The 
astronomer discoven? that geometry, a pure abstraction of 
the human mind, is tlfiR^ measure of planetary motion. The 
chemist finds proportioils and intelligible method through- 
out matter: and aciftnfiejs notihing but the fin dinp r nf ay ialnpry^ 



identity, in the most remote parts^ The ambitious soul sits 
down before each refractory fact; one after another, reduces 
all strange constitutions, all new ^wers, to their dass and 
their law, and goes on for ever to animate the last fibre of 
organization, the outskirts of nature, bysmsight. 

Thus to him, to this school-boy imder xhe bending dome 
of day, is suggested, that he and it proceed from one root; 
one is leaf and one is flower; relation, s>inpathy, stirring in 
every vein. And what is that Root? 1^ not tiiat the soul 
of his soul? — ^A thought too bold, — ^a dream too wild. Yet 
when this spiritual light shall have revealed the law of more 
earthly natures, — when he has learned to worship the soul, 
and to see that the natural philosophy that now is, is only 
the first gropings of its gigantic hand, he shall look forward 
to an ever expanding knowledge as to a becoming creator. 
He shall see, that nature is the opposite of the soul, answer- 
ing to it part for part. One is seal, and one is print. Its 
beauty is the beauty of his own mind. Its laws are the laws 
of his own mind. Nature then becomes to him the meas- 
ure of his attainments. So much of nature as he is ig- 
norant of, so much of his own mind does he not yet possess. 
And, in fine, the ancient precept, "Know thyself," and the 
modern precept, "Study nature," become at last the one 
maxim. 

II. The next great influence into the spirit of the scholar, 
is, the mind of the Pfliit-^ in whatever form, whether of 
literature, of art, of institutions, that mind is inscribed. 
Books are the best type of the influence of the past, and per- 
haps we shall get at the truth,— learn the amount of this 
influence more conveniently, — by considering their value 
alone. 



THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR 291 

. The theory of books is noble. The scholar of the first age 
received into him the world around; brooded thereon; gave 
it the new arrangement of his own mind^ and uttered it 
again. It came into him, Hfe; it went out from him, truth. 
It came to him, short-Hved actions; it went out from him, 
inmiortal thoughts. It came to him, business; it went from 
him poetry. It was dead fact; now, it is quick thought. It 
can stand, and it can go. It now endures, it now flies, it 
now inspires. Precisely in proportion to the depth of mind 
from which it issued, so high does it soar, so long does it sing. 

Or, I might say, it depends on how far the process had 
gone, of transmuting life into truth. In proportion to the 
completeness of the distillation, so will the purity and im- 
perishableness of the product be. But none is quite per- 
fect. As no air-pump can by any means make a perfect 
vacuum, so neither can any artist entirely exclude the con- 
ventional, the local, the perishable, from his book, or write 
a book of pure thought, that shall be as efficient, in all 
respects, to a remote posterity, as to contemporaries, or 
rather to the second age. Each age, it is fo i^ pH, must 
write its own books; or rather^ each generation for the^gjJL. 
8uc^^dlngr^ TEel )o6ks of an older period wiU not fit this. _ 

Yet hence arises a grave mischief . The sacredness which 
attaches to the act of creation, — ^the act of thought, — ^is 
transferred to the record. The poet chanting, was felt to 
be a divine man: henceforth the chant is divine also. The 
writer waai a just and wise spirit; henceforward it is settled, 
the book is perfect; as love of the hero corrupts into wor- 
ship of his statue. Instantly, the book becomes noxious: 
the guide is a tyrant. The sluggish and perverted mind of 
the multitude, slow to open to the incursions of Reason, 
having once so opened, having once received this book, 
stands upon it, and makes an outcry, if it is disparaged. 
Colleges are buUt on it. Books are written on it by thinkers, 
not by Man Thinking; by men of talent, that is, who start 
wrong, who set out from accepted dogmas, not from their 
own sight of principles. Meek young men grow up in 
libraries, believing it their duty to accept the views, which 
Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon, have given, forgetful 



292 THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR 

that Cicero, Locke and Bacon were only young men in 
libraries, when they wrote these books. 

Hence, instead of Man Thinking, we have the bookworm. 
Hence, the book-learned class, who value books, as such; 
not as related to nature and the human constitution, but 
as making a sort of Third Estate with the world and the 
soul. Hence, the restorers of readings, the emendators, 
the bibhomaniacs of all degrees. 

Books are the best of things, well used; abused, among the 
worst. What is the right use? What is the one end, 
which all means go to effect? They are fo r pnthin g but to 
inspire . I had better never see a book, than to be warped 
by its attraction clean out of my own orbit, and made a 
satellite instead of a system. The one thing in the worldj. of 
value, is the active soul. This every man is entitled to; 
this every man contsdns within him, although, in almost 
all men, obstructed, and as yet unborn. The soul active 
sees absolute truth; and utters truth, or creates. In this 
action, it is genius; not the privilege of here and there a 
favorite, but the sound estate of every nan. In its essence, 
it is progressive. The book, the college, the school of art, 
the institution of any kind, stop with some past utterance^ 
of genius. This is good, say they, — let us hold by this. 
They pin me down. They look backward and not forward.- 

T^^iti ^^V^^^^ Innlra fnryrarHr the eves of Tnan ^j-p^. f^t in hk 

forehead: not in his hindhead: man hopes: genius creates. 
Whatever talents may be, if the man create not, the pure 
efflux of the Deity is not his; — cinders and smoke there may 
be, but not yet flame. There are creative manners, there 
are creative actions, and creative words; manners, actions, 
words, that is, indicative of no custom or authority, but 
springing spontaneous from the mind's own sense of good 
and fair. 

On the other part, instead of being its own seer, let it 
receive from another mind its truth, though it were in tor- 
rents of light, without periods of solitude, inquest, and self- 
recovery, and a fatal disservice is done. Genius is always 
sufficiently the enemy of genius by over influence. The 
literature of every nation bear me witness* The English 



THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR 293 

dramatic poets have Shakspearized now for two hundred 
years. 

Undoubtedly there is a right way of reading, so it be 
sternly subordinated. Man Thinking must not be subdued 
by his instruments. 3ooks are for the scholari_idle ti mes,. 
When he can read God directly, the hour is too precious to 
be wasted in other men's transcripts of their readings. 
But when the intervals of darkness come, as come they must, 
when the sun is hid, and the stars withdraw their shining, 
— ^we repair to the lamps which were kindled by their ray, 
to guide our steps to the East again, where the dawn is. 
We hear, tL-., we may speak. The Arabian proverb says, 
" A fig tree, looking on a fig tree, becometh fruitful." 

It is remarkable, the character of the pleasure we derive 
from the best books. They impress us with the conviction, 
that one nature wrote and the same reads. We read the 
verses of one of the great English poets, of Chaucer, of 
Marvell, of Dryden, with the most modem joy, — ^with a 
pleasure, I mean, which is in great part caused by the ab- 
straction of all time from their verses. There is some awe 
mixed with the joy of our surprise, when this poet, who hved 
in some past world, two or three hundred years ago, says 
that which lies close to my own soul, that which I also had 
wellnigh thought and said. But for the evidence thence 
afforded to the philosophical doctrine of the identity of 
all minds, we should suppose some preestablished harmony, 
some foresight of souls that were to be, and some prepara- 
tion of stores for their future wants, like the fact observed in 
insects, who lay up food before death for the yoimg grub 
they shall never see. 

I would not be hurried by any love of sjrstem, by any 
exaggeration of instincts, to underrate the Book. We all 
know, that, as the human body can be nourished on any 
food, though it were boiled grass and the broth of shoes, 
so the human mind can be fed by any knowledge. And 
great and heroic men have existed, who had almost no other 
information than by the printed page. I only would say, 
that it needs a strong head to bear that diet. One must be 
an inventor to read well. As the proverb says, "He that 



294 THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR 

would bring home the wealth of the Indies, must carry out 
the wealth of the Indies/' There is then creative reading aa 
well as creative writing. When the mind is braced by labor 
and mvention, tlie page of whatever book we read becomes 
[uminous mtS manifold allusion. Every sentence is doubly 
significant, and the sense of our author is as broad as the 
world. We then see, what is always true, that, aa the seer's 
hour of vision is short and rare among heavy days and 
months, so is its record, perchance, the least part of his 
volume. The discerning will read, in his Plato or Shaks- 
peare, only that least part,— only the authentic utterances of 
the oracle; — ^all the rest he rejects, were it never so many 
times Plato's and Shakspeare's. 

Of course, there is a portion of reading quite indispensable 
to a wise man. History and exact science he must learn 
by laborious reading. Colleges, in like manner, have their 
indispensable office,— to teach elements. But they can only 
highly serve us, when they aim not to drill, but to create; 
when they gather from far every ray of various genius to 
their hospitable halls, and, by the concentrated fires, set the 
hearts of their youth on flame. Thought and knowledge are 
natureSjin which apparatus and pretension avail nothing. 
Gowns,' and pecuniary foundations, though of towns of gold, 
can never countervail the least sentence or syllable of wit. 
Forget this, and our American colleges will recede in their 
public importance, whilst they grow rich every year. 

III. There goes in the world a notion, that the scholar 
should be a recluse, a valetudinarian, — aa unfit for any 
handiwork or public labor, as a penknife for an axe. The 
so-called "practical men" sneer at speculative men, as if, 
because they speculate or see, they could do nothing. I have 
heard it said that the clergy, — ^who are always, more uni- 
versally than any other class, the scholars of their day, — 
are addressed as women; that the rough, spontaneous con- 
versation of men they do not hear, but only a mincing and 
diluted speech. They are often virtually disfranchised; and, 
indeed, there are advocates for their celibacy. As far as this 
is true of the studious classes, it is not just and wis e Actio n 



THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR 295 

is with the scholar subordinate, but it jg^ ffsential . Without 
it, he is not yet man. Without it, thougni ' dmTnever ripen 
into truth. Whilst the world hangs before the eye as a 
cloud of beauty, we cannot even see its beauty. Inaction 
is cowardice, but there can be no scholar without the heroic 
mind. The preamble of thought, the transition through 
which it passes from the unconscious to the conscious, is 
action. Only so much do I know, as I have Uved. Instantly 
we know whose words are loaded with life, and whose not. 

The world, — ^this shadow of the soul, or other me, Hes 
wide around. Its attractions are the keys which unlock my 
thoughts and make me acquainted with myself. I nm ea- 
gerly into this resoimding tumult. I grasp the hands of those 
next me, and take my place in the ring to suffer and to work, 
taught by an instinct, that so shall the dumb abyssjoe vocal 
with speech. I pierce its order; I dissipate its f^r; I dis- 
pose of it within the circuit of my expanding life. So much 
only of Ufe as I know by experience, so much of the wilder- 
ness have I vanquished and planted, or so far have I ex- 
tended my being, my dominion. I do not see how any man 
can afford, for the sake of his nerves and his nap, to spare 
any action in which he can partake It is pearls and rubies to 
his discourse. Drudgery, calamity, exasperation, want, are in- 
structors in eloquence and wisdom. The true scholar grudges 
every^ppo rtunity of action past by, ds a loss of power. 

It is the raw material otlt of which the intellect moulds 
her splendid products. A strange process too, this, by 
which experience is converted into thought, as a mulberry 
leaf is converted into satin. The manufacture goes for- 
ward at all hours. % 

The actions and events of our childhood and ypj 
now matters of calmest observation. They lie 
pictures in the air. Not so with our recent actioi 
the business which we now have in hand. On this 
quite unable to speculate. Our affections as yet circulate 
through it. We no more feel or know it, than we feel the 
feet, or the hand, or the brain of our body. The new deed 
is yet a part of life, — ^remains for a time immersed in our 
unconscious life. In some contemplative hour, it detaches 




296 TEE AMERICAN SCHOLAR 

itself from the life like a ripe fruit, to become a thought of 
the mind. lustantJy, it is raised, transfigured; the corrupti- 
ble has put on incoTruption. Henceforth it is an object of 
beauty, however base its origin and neighborhood. Observe, 
too, the imposdbility of antedating this act. In its grub 
state, it cannot fly, it cannot shine, it is a dull grub. But 
suddenly, /without observation, the selfsame thing unfurls 
beautiful win^, and is an angel of wisdom. So is there no 
fact, no event in our private history, which shall not, sooner 
or later, lose its adhesive, inert form, and astonish tis by 
soaring from our body into the empyrean. Cradle and in- 
fancy, school and playground, the fear of boys, and dogs, 
and ferules, the love of little maids and berries, and many 
another fact that once filled the whole sky, are gone already; 
friend and r^tive, profession and party, town and country, 
nation and world, must also soar and sit^. 

Of course, he who has put forth his total strei^th in fit 
actions, has the' richest return of wisdom. I will not shut 
myself out of this globe of action, and transplant an oak into 
a flower-pot, there to hunger and pine; nor trust the revenue 
of some single faculty, and exhaust one vein of thought, 
much like those Savoyards, who, getting their livelihood by 
carving shepherds, shepherdesses, and smoking Dutchmen, 
for all Europe, went out one 'day to the mountain to find stock, 
and discovered that they had whittled up the last of their 
pine-trees. Authors we have, in numbers, who have writ- 
ten out their vein, and who, moved by a commendable 
prudence, sail for Greece or Palestine, follow the trapper 
into the prairie, or ramble round Alters, to replenish their 
[Bable stock. 

frere. oiJy for a vocabulary, the scholar would be 
y;f action. Life is our diotionary. Years are well 
f country labors; in town, — ^in the indght into trades 
Lufactures; in frank intercourse with many men and 
women; in science; in art; to the one end of mastering in 
all thdr facts a lai^uage by which to illustrate and embody 
our perceptions. I learn immediately from any speaker how 
much he has. already lived, through the poverty or the 
splendor of bis speech. Life lies behind us as the quarry 



THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR 297 

from whence we get tiles and copestones for the masonry of 
to-day. This is the way to learn grammar. Colleges and 
books only copy the language which the field and the work- 
yard made. 

But the final value of action, like that of books, and better 
than books, is, that it is a resource. That great principle 
of Undulation in nature, that shows itself in the inspiring 
and expiring of the breath; in desire and satiety; in the ebb 
and flow of the sea; in day and night; in heat and cold; and 
as yet more deeply ingrained in every atom and every fluid, 
is known to us under the name of Polarity, — ^these "fits of 
easy transmission and reflection," as Newton called them, 
are the law of nature because they are the law of spirit. 

The mind now thinks; now acts; and each fit reproduces 
the other. When the artist has exhausted his materials, 
when the fancy no longer paints, when thoughts are no 
longer apprehended, and books are a weariness, — ^he has 
always the resource jo liv e. Character is higher than intel- 
lect. 't^mkiggJaJ;]E3SHction. liying is tbft functionary. 
The stream retreats to its source. A great soul will be 
strong to live, as well as strong to think. Does he lack 
organ or medium to impart his truths? He can still fall 
back on this elemental force of living them. This is a totgl 
^. Thinking is a SdXtiaLj8i£t. tiet the grandeur of justice 
shine in his affairs. Let the beauty of affection cheer his 
lowly roof. Those "far from fame," who dwell and act with 
him, will feel the force of his constitution in the doings and 
passages of the day better than it can be measured by any 
public and designed display. Time shall teach him, that 
the scholar loses no hour which the man lives. Herein he 
imfolds the sacred germ of his instinct, screened from in- 
fluence. \^at is lost in seemliness is gained in strength. 
Not out ofyfchose, on whom systems of education have ex- 
hausted their culture, comes the helpful giant to destroy the 
old or to build the new, but out of unhandselled savage nature, 
out of terrible Druids and berserkirs, come at last Alfred 
and Shakspeare. 

I hear therefore with joy whatever is beginning to be said 
of the dignity and necessity of labor to every citizen. There is 



298 THE AMERICAN SCHOLAB 

• virtue yet in the hoe and the spade, for learned as well as for 
unlearned hands. And labor is everywhere welcome; always 
we are invited to work; only be this limitation observed, 
that a man shall not for the sake of wider activity sacrifice 
any opinion to the popular judgnients and modes of action. 

I have now spoken of the education of the sch olar by 
natiirfi. hv books, and bv actio n. It remains to say some- 
what of ms duties. 

They are such as become Man Thinking. They may ail 
be comprised in self-trust. Theoffic^f the scholar is to 
cheer, to raise, and to guide mSff'l^^owing them facts 
amidst appearances. He plies the slow, imhonored, and im- 
paid task of jgljigQ^gJ^on^ Flamsteed and Herschel, in their 
glazed observafOTllw, may catalogue the stars with the praise 
of all men, and, the results being splendid and useful, honor 
is sure. But he, in his private observatory, cataloguing ob- 
scure and nebulous stars of the human mind, which as yet 
no man has thought of as such, — ^watching days and months, 
sometimes, for a few facts; correcting still his old records; — 
must relinquish display and immediate fame. In the long pe- 
riod of his preparation, he must betray often an ignorance and 
shiftlessness in popular arts, incurring the disdain of the able 
who shoulder him aside. Long he must stammer in his 
speech; often forego the living for the dead. Worse yet, he 
must accept, — how often! poverty and solitude. For the 
ease and pleasure of treading the old road, accepting the 
fashions, the education, the religion of society, he takes the 
cross of making his own, and of course, the self-accusation, 
the faint heart, the frequent uncertainty and loss of time, 
which are the nettles and tangling vines in the way of the 
self-relying and self-directed; and the state of virtual hos- 
tility in which he seems to stand to society, and especially 
to educated society. For all this loss and scorn, what offset? 
He is to find consolation in exercising the highest functions 
of human nature. He is one, who raises himself from private 
considerations, and breathes and lives on public and illustrious 
thoughts. He is the world's eye. He is the world's heart. 
He is to resist the vulgar prosperity that retrogrades ever 



THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR 299 

to barbarism, by preserving and communicating heroic senti^ 
mentS; noble biographies, melodious verse, and the con- 
elusions of history. Whatsoever oracles the human heart, 
in all emergencies, in all solemn hours, has uttered as its 
commentary on the world of actions, — ^these he shall receive 
and impart. And whatsoever new verdict Reason from her 
inviolable seat pronounces on the passing men and events of 
to-day — this he shall hear and promulgate. 

These being his functions, it becomes him to feel all con- 
fidence in himself, and to defer never to the popular cry. 
He and he only knows tb0^¥eild. The world of any moment 
iff-1iwr-t5erest appearance. Some great decorum, some 
fetish of a government, some ephemeral trade, or war, or 
man, is cried up by half mankind and cried down by the 
other half, as if all depended on this particular up or down. 
The odds are that the whole question is not worth the 
poorest thought which the scholar has lost in listening to 
the controversy. Let him not quit his belief that a popgun 
is a popgun, though the ancient and honorable of the earth 
affirm it to be the crack of doom. In silence, in steadiness, 
in severe abstraction, /let him hold by himself; add ob- 
servation to observatiofi, patient of neglect, patient of re- 
proach; and bide his own time, — ^happy enough, if he can 
satisfy himself alone, that this day he has seen something 
truly. Success- treada on. every ligbt^gtep. For the instinct 
is sure, that prompts him to tell his brother what he thinks. 
He then learns, that in going down into the secrets of his 
own mind, he has descended into the secrets of all jninda. 
He learns that he who has mastered any law in his private 
thoughts, is master to that extent of all men whose language 
he speaks, and of all into whose language his own can be 
translated. The poet, in utter solitude remembering his 
spontaneous thoughts and recording them, is found to have 
recorded that, which men in crowded cities find true for them 
also. The orator distrusts at first the fitness of his frank 
confesfflons, — ^his want of knowledge of the persons he ad- 
dresses, — ^until he finds that he is the complement of his 
hearers; — ^that they drink his words because he fulfils for 
them their own nature; the deeper he dives into his privatest 



300 THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR 

eecretest presentiment, to his wonder he finds, this is the 
most acceptable, most pubhc, and universally true. The 
people delight in it; the better part of every man feels. This 
is my music; this is myself. 

In . self-trust , all the virtues are comprehended. Free 
should the scholar be, — ^free and brave. F ree even to the 
detimtion oi ireedom, without any hindrance that does not 
arise out of his own constitution.^^ i 3rave; for fear is a 
tking, wlucn a scholar by his very lunction puts behind him. 
Fear always springs from ignorance. It is a shame to him 
if his tranquiUity, amid dangerous times, arise from the 
presumption, that, like children and women, his is a pro- 
tected class; or if he seek a temporary peace by the diversion 
of his thoughts from pohtics of Vexed questions, hiding his 
head like an ostrich in the flowering bushes, peeping into 
microscopes, and turning rhymes, as a boy whistles to keep 
his courage up. So is the danger a danger still; so is the fear 
worse. Manlike let him turn and face it. Let him look 
into its eye and search its nature, inspect its origin, — see the 
whelping of this lion, which hes no great way back; he will 
then find in himself a perfect comprehension of its nature 
and extent; he will have made his hands meet on the other 
side, and can henceforth defy it, and pass on superior. The 
world is his, who can see through its pretension .What deaf- 
ness, what stone-blind custom, what overgrown error you be- 
hold, is there only by sufferance, — ^by your sufferance. See it 
to be a lie, and you have already dealt it its mortal blow. 

Yes, we are the cowed, — we the trustless. It is a mischie- 
vous notion that we are come late into nature; that the 
world was finished a long time ago. As the world was plastic 
and fluid in the hands of God, so it is ever to so much of his 
attributes as we bring to it. To ignorance and sin, it is 
flint. They adapt themselves to it as they may; but in 
proportion as a man has any thing in him divine, the firma- 
ment flows before him and takes his signet and form. Not 
he is great who can alter matter, but he who can alter my 
state of mind. They are the kings of the world who give 
the color of their present thought to all nature and all art, 
and persuade men by the cheerful serenity of their carrying 



THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR 301 

the matter, that this thing which they do, is the apple which 
the ages have desired to pluck, now at last ripe, and inviting 
nations to the harvest. The great manjaa^ea-ihe great 
thing. Wherever MacdonalH ^ts^ tfiere is the head~of the 
^tablei"' Linnaeus makes botany the most alluring of studies, 
and wins it from the farmer and the herd-woman; Davy, 
chemistry; and Cuvier, fossils. The day ig. always J^, wbb 
works in it with sereiaity--Tnid--g3»at_amis. The unstaBle 
estimates of men crowd to him whose nund is filled with a 
truth, as the heaped waves of the Atlantic follow the moon. 
For this self-trust, the reason is deeper than can be 
fathomed, — darker than can be enlightened. I might not 
carry with me the feeling of my audience in stating my own 
belief. But I have already shown the ground of my hope, 
in adverting* to the doctrine that man is one. I believe man 
has been wronged; he has wronged himself. He has almost 
lost the light, that can lead him back to his prerogatives. 
Men are become of no accoimt. Men in history, men in the 
world of to-day are bugs, are spawn, and are called "the 
mass" and "the herd." In a century, in a millennium, one 
or two men; that is to say, — one or two approximations to 
the right state of every man. All theraBt-tebold m, the 
hero or the poet their own green and crude -being, — ripened, 
yes^ and are contenijajjejesg, bo that may attain to its full 
stature. What a testimony, — full of grandeur, full of pity, 
is borne to the demands of his own nature, by the poor clans- 
man, the poor partisan, who^ rejoices in the glory of his chief. 
The poor and the low find some amends to their immense 
moral capacity, for their acquiiescence in a political and 
social inferiority. They are content to be brushed like flies 
from the path of a great person, so that justice shall be 
done by him to that common nature which it is the dearest 
desire of all to see enlarged and glorified. They sun them- 
selves in the great man's light, and feel it to be their own 
element. They cast the dignity of man from their down- 
trod selves upon the shoulders of a hero, and will perish to 
add one drop of blood to make that great heart beat, those 
giant sinews combat and conquer. He lives for us, and we 
Kve in him. 



V 



302 THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR 

Men such as they are, very naturally seek money or 
power; and power because it is as good as money, — the 
"spoils," so called, "of office." \ And why not? for they as- 
pire to the highest, and this,'^in their sleep-walking, they 
dream is highest. Wake them, and they shall quit the false 
good, and leap to the true, and leave governments to clerks 
and desks. This revolution is to be wrought by the gradual 
domestication of the idea ^f Culture. The main enterprise 
of the world for splendor,^orexteni, is the upbuilding of a 
man. Here are the materials strown along the ground. The 
private life of one man shall be a more illustrious monarchy, 
— ^more formidable to its enemy, more sweet and serene in 
its influence to its friend, than any kingdom in history. For 
a man, rightly viewed, comprehendeth the particular natures, 
of all men. Each philosopher, each bard, each actor, has 
only done for me, as by a delegate,^ what^ m e d ay I -^sapj io for 
ry^ysftlf Thft books which ouce we valued more than t^ 
apple of the eye^ we have quite exhausted. What is that 
but saying, that we have come up wilEthe point of view 
which the universal mind took through the eyes of one 
scribe; we have been that man, and have passed on. First, 
one; then, another; we drain all cisterns, and waxing 
greater by all these supplies, we crave a better and more 
abundant food. The man has n^agpr Yyyf^ ^gt _can feed 
us ever. The human mind cannot be enshrined in a i)ers6n, 
who shall set a barrier on any one side to this unbounded, 
unboimdable empire. It is one central fire, which, flaming 
now out of the lips of Etna, lightens the capes of Sicily; and, 
now out of the throat of Vesuvius, illuminates the towers and 
vineyards of Naples. It is one light which beams out of a 
thousand stars. It is one soul which animates all men. 

But I have dwelt perhaps tediously upon this abstraction 
of the Scholar. I ought not to delay longer to add what I 
have to say, of nearer reference to the time and to this coun- 
try. 

Historically, there is thought to be a difference in the 
ideas which predominate over successive epochs, and there 
are data for marking the genius of the Classic, of the Ro- 



THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR 303 

mantle, and now of the Reflective or Philosophical age. 
With the views I have intimated of the oneness or the identity 
of the mind through all individuals, I do not much dwell on 
these differences. In fact, I believe each individual passes 
through all three. The boy is a Greek; the youth, romantic; 
the adult, reflective. I deny not, however, that a revolution 
in the leading idea may be distinctly enough traced. 

Our age is bewailed as the age of Introversion. Must 
that needs be evil? We, it seems, are critical; we are em- 
barrassed with second thoughts; we cannot enjoy anything 
for hankering to know whereof the pleasure consists; we are 
lined with eyes; we see with our feet; the time is infected 
with Hamlet's unhappiness, — 

"Sicklied o'er with the pale oast of thought." 

Is it SO bad then? Sight is the last thing to be pitied. 
Would we be blind?. Do we fear lest we should outsee 
nature and God, and drink truth dry? I look upon the dis- 
content of the literary class, as a mere announcement of 
the fact, that they find themselves not in the state of mind 
of their fathers, and regret the coming state as untried; as 
a boy dreads the water before he has learned that he can 
swim. If there is any period one would desire to be bom in, 
— ^is it not the age of Revolution; when the old and the new 
stand side by side, and admit of being compared; when the 
energies of all men are searched by fear and by hope; when 
the historic glories of the old can be compensated by the 
rich possibilities of the new era? This time, like all times, 
is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it. 

I read with joy some of the auspicious signs of the coming 
days, as they glimmer already through poetry and art, 
through philosophy and f cience, through church and state. 

One of these signs is the fact, that the same movement 
which effected the elevation of what was called the lowest 
class in the state, assumed in literature a very marked and 
as benign an aspect. Instead of the sublime and beautiful; 
the near, the low, the common, was explored and poetized. 
That, which had been negligently trodden under foot by 
those who were harnessing and provisioning themselves for 



304 THE AMERICAN SCJHOtAR 

long journeys into far countries^ is suddenly found to be 
richer than all foreign parts. The literature of the poor, 
the feelings of the child, the philosophy of the street, the 
meaning of household life, are the topics of the time. It is 
a great stride. It is a sigQi -is it not? of new vigor, when 
the extremitieg^e made active, when currtBW W Warm life 
run into the hands and the feet. I ask not for the great, 
the remote, the romantic; what is doing in Italy or Arabia; 
what is Greek art, or Provencal minstrelsy; I embrace the 
common, I explore and sit at the feet of the famiUar, the low. 
^fiJYfi ^'^ ingighf j ptQ to-dav. and vou mav have the antique 
^H fiitnrp wnrlHff, What would We really know the meaning 
of? The meal in the firkin; the milk in the pan; the ballad 
in the street; the news of the boat; the glance of the eye; 
the form and the gait of the body; — show me the ultimate 
•reason of these matters; show me the sublime presence of 
the highest spiritual cause lurking, as always it does lurk, 
in these suburbs and extremities of nature;, let me see every 
trifle bristling with the polarity that ranges it instantly on 
an eternal law; and the shop, the plough, and the ledger, 
referred to the like cause by which light undulates and poets 
sing; — and the world lies no longer a dull miscellany and 
lumber-room, but has form and order; there is no trifle; 
there is no puzzle; but one design unites and animates the 
farthest pinnacle and the lowest trench. 

This idea has inspired the genius of Goldsmith, Bums, 
Cowper, and, in a newer time, of Goethe, Wordsworth, and 
Carlyle. Tl^ idea they have differently followed and with 
various success. In contrast with their writing, the style of 
Pope, of Johnson, of Gibbon, looks cold and pedantic. This 
writing is blood-warm. Man '}8 surprised to find that things 
near are not less beautiful and wondrous than things remote. 
The near explains the far . The drop la a sTnall ^ni>An ^ 
man is related to all nature. This perception of the worth 
ot tne vulgar is fruitful in discoveries. Goethe, in this very 
thing the most modern of the modems, has shown us, as none 
ever did, the genius of the ancients. 

There is one man of genius, who has done much for this 
philosophy of life, whose literary value has never yet been 



THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR 305 

rightly estimated; — ^I mean Emanuel Swedenborg. The most 
imaginative of men, yet writing with the precision of a mathe- 
matician, he endeavored to engraft a purely philosophical 
Ethics on the popular Christianity of his time. Such an 
attempt, of course, must have difficulty, which no genius 
could surmount. , But he saw and showed the connection 
between nature and;J^_agectiQjp(s of thesoul. He pierced 
the embl^matic-xjr spiritual characteTtif^e visible, audible, 
tangible world. Especially did his shade-loving muse hover 
over and interpret the lower parts of nature; he showed the 
mysterious bond that aUies moral evil to the foul material 
forms, and has given in epical parables a theory of insanity, 
of beast, of unclean and fearful things. 

Another sign of our times, also marked by an analogous 
political movement, is, the new importance given to the 
single person. Everything' that tends to insulate the indi- 
vidual, — ^to surround him with barriers of natural respect, 
so that each man shall feel the world is his, and man shall 
treat with man as a sovereign state with a sovereign state, — 
tends to true union as well as greatness. "I learned," said 
the melancholy Festalozzi, ''that no man in God's wide 
earth is either willing or able to help any other man." Help 
must come from the bosom alo^. The scholar is that man 
who must take"Uplnto^Mmselfall the ability of the time, all 
the contributions of the past, all the hopes of the future. He 
must be an university of knowledges. If there be one lesson 
more than another, which should pierce his ear, it i8,.The 
WQild Js nothing, thf j m^n T° *>^^' in yourself is the law of all 
nature, and you know not yet how a globule of sap ascends; 
in yourself slumbers the whole of Reason; it is for you to 
know all, it is for you to dare all. Mr. President and Gentle- 
men, this confidence in the unsearched might of man belongs, 
by all motives, by all prophecy, by all preparation, to the ^ 
American Scholar. We have listened too long to the courtly 
muses of Europe. The spirit of the American freeman is 
already suspected to be timid, imitative, tame. Public and 
private avarice make the air we breathe thick and fat. The 
scholar is decent, indolent, complaisant. See already the 
tragic consequence. The mind of this country, taught to 



306 THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR 

aim at low objects, eats upon itself. There is no work for 
any but the decorous and the complaisant. Young men of 
the fairest promise, who begin life upon our shores, inflated 
by the moimtain winds, shined upon by all the stars of God, 
find the earth below not in imison with these, — ^but are 
hindered from action by the disgust which the principles on 
which business is managed inspire, and turn drudges, or die 
of disgust, — some of them suicides. What is the remedy? 
They did not yet see, and thousands of young men as hopeful 
now crowding to the barriers for the career, do not yet see, 
that, if the single man plant himself indomitably on his 
instincts, and there abide, the huge world will come round 
to him. Patience, — patience; — ^with the shades of all the 

Siod and great for company; and for solace, the perspective 
your own infinite life; and for work, the study and the 
^communication of principles, the making those instincts 
prevalent, the conversion of the world. Is it not the chief 
disgrace in the world, nqtja.beanumt; — not to be reckoned 
one character; — ^not to ^eldtEaflpeculiar fruit which each 
man was created to bear, but to be reckoned in the gross, in 
the hundred, or the thousand, of the party, the section, to 
which we belong; and our opinion predicted geographically, 
as the north, or the south? Not so, brothers, and friends, — 
please God, ours shall not be so. We will walk on our own 
feet; we will work with our own hands; we will speak our 
own minds. The study of letters shall be no longer a name 
for pity, for doubt, and for sensual indulgence. The dread 
of man and the love of man "shall be a wall of defence and a 
wreath of joy around all. A nation of men will for the first 
time exist, because each believes himself inspired by the 
Divine Soul which also inspires all men. 



XVI 

MAN THE REFORMER 

A Lecture read before the Mechanics' Apprentices' Library 
Association, Boston, January 25, 1841 

Mr. President, and Gentlemen, 

I WISH to offer to your consideration some thoughts on 
the particular and general relations of man as a reformer. 
I shall assume that the aim of each young man in this associ- 
ation is the very highest that belongs to a rational mind. 
Let it be granted, that our life, as we lead it, is common and 
mean; that some of those offices and functions for which we 
were mainly created are grown so rare in society, that the 
memory of them is only kept alive in old books and in dim 
traditions; that prophets and poets, that beautiful and 
perfect men, we are not now, no, nor have even seen such; 
that some sources of human instruction are almost un- 
named and unknown among us; that the community in 
which we live will hardly bear to be told that every man 
should be open to ecstasy or a divine illumination, and his 
daily walk elevated by intercourse with the spiritual world. 
Grant all this, as we must, yet I suppose none of my auditors 
will deny that we ought to seek to establish ourselves in 
such disciplines and courses as will deserve that guidance 
and clearer communication with the spiritual nature. And 
further, I will not dissemble my hope, that each person whom 
I address has felt his own call to cast aside all evil customs, 
timidities, and limitations, and to be in his place a free and 
helpful man, a reformer, a benefactor, not content to slip 
along through the world like a footman or a spy, escaping 
by his nimbleness and apologies as many knocks as he can, 
but a brave and upright man, who must find or cut a straight 
road to everything excellent in the earth, and not only go 

807 



308 MAN THE REFORMER 

honorably himself^ but make it easier for all who follow him, 
to go in honor and with benefit. 

In the history of the world the doctrine of Reform had 
never such scope as at the present hour. Lutherans, Hem- 
butters, Jesuits, Monks, Quakers, Knox, Wesley, Swedenborg, 
Bentham, in their accusations of society, all respected some- 
thing, — church or state, Hterature or history, domestic 
usages, the market town, the dinner table, coined money. 
But now all these and all things else hear the tnunpet, and 
must rush to judgment, — Christianity, the laws, commerce, 
schools, the farm, the laboratory; and not a kingdom, 
town, statute, rite, calling, man, or woman, but is threatened 
by the new spirit. 

What if some of the objections whereby our institutions 
are assailed are extreme and speculative, and the reformers 
tend to idealism; that only shows the e^ravagance of the 
abuses which have driven the mind into the opposite ex- 
treme. It is when your facts and persons grow unreal and 
fantastic by too much falsehood, that the scholar flies for 
refuge to the world of ideas, and aims to recruit and re- 
plenish nature from that source. Let ideas establish their 
legitimate sway again in society, let life be fair and poetic, 
and the scholars will gladly be lovers, citizens, and phil- 
anthropists. 

It will afford no security from the new ideas, that the old 
nations, the laws of centuries, the property and institutions 
of a hundred cities, are built on other foundations. The 
demon of reform has a secret door into the heart of every 
lawmaker, of every inhabitant of every city. The fact, that 
a new thought and hope have dawned in your breast, should 
apprise you that in the same hour a new light broke in upon 
a thousand private hearts. That secret which you would 
fain keep, — as soon as you go abroad, lo! there is one 
standing on the doorstep, to tell you the same. There is 
not the most bronzed and sharpened money-catcher, who 
does not, to your consternation, almost, quail and shake 
the moment he hears a question prompted by the new 
ideas. We thought he had some semblance of ground to 
stand upon, that such as he at least would die hard; but he 



MAN THE REFORMER 309 

trembles and flees. Then the scholar says, "Cities and 
coaches shall never impose on me again; for, behold, every 
solitary dream of mine is rushing to fulfilment. That fancy 
I had, and hesitated to utter because you would laugh, — 
the broker, the attorney, the market-man are saying the 
same thing. Had I waited a day longer to speak, I had 
been too late. Behold, State Street thinks, and Wall Street 
doubts, and begins to prophesy!" 

It cannot be wondered at, that this general inquest into 
abuses should arise in the bosom of society, when one con- 
siders the practical impediments that stand in the way of 
virtuous young men. The young man, on entering life, 
finds the way to lucrative employments blocked with abuses. 
The ways of trade^ are grown selfish to the borders of theft, 
and supple to the borders (if not beyond the borders) of 
fraud. The employments of conmierce are not intrinsically 
unfit for a man, or less genial to his faculties, but these are 
now in their general course so vitiated by derelictions and 
abuses at which all connive, that it requires more vigor and 
resources than can be expected of every young man, to right 
himself in them; he is lost in them; he cannot move hand or 
foot in them. Has he genius and virtue? the less does he 
find them fit for him to grow in, and if he would thrive in 
them, he must sacrifice all the brilliant dreams of boyhood 
and youth as dreams; he must forget the prayers of his 
childhood; and must take on him the harness of routine 
and obsequiousness. If not so minded, nothing is left him 
but to begin the world anew, as he does who puts the spade 
into the ground for food. We are all implicated, of course, 
in this charge; it is only necessary to ask a few questions 
as to the progress of the articles of commerce from the fields 
where they grew, to our houses, to become aware that we 
eat and drink and wear perjury and fraud in a hundred 
commodities. How many articles of daily consumption are 
furnished us from the West Indies; yet it is said, that, in 
the Spanish islands, the venality of the officers of the govern- 
ment has passed into usage, and that no article passes into 
our ships which has not been fraudulently cheapened. In 
the Spanish islands, every agent or factor of tHe Americans, 



310 MAN THE REFORMER 

unless he be a consul, has taken oath that he is a Catholic, 
or has caused a priest to make that declaration for him. 
The abohtionist has shown us our dreadful debt to the 
Southern negro. In the island of Cuba, in addition to the 
ordinary abominations of slavery, it appears, only men are 
bought for the plantations, and one dies in ten every year, 
of these miserable bachelors, to yield us sugar. I leave for 
those who have the knowledge the part of sifting the oaths 
of our custom-houses; I will not inquire into the oppression 
of the sailors; I will not pry into the usages of our retail 
trade. I content myself with the fact, that the general 
system of our trade, (apart from the blacker traits which, 
I hope, are exceptions denounced and unshared by all repu- 
table men,) is a system of selfishness; is not dictated by the 
high sentiments of human nature; is not measured by the 
exact law of reciprocity; much less by the sentiments of love 
and heroism, but is a system of distrust, of concealment, of 
superior keenness, not of giving but of taking advantage. It 
is not that which a man dehghts to unlock to a noble friend; 
which he meditates on with joy and self-approval in his hour 
of love and aspiration; but rather what he then puts out of 
sight, only showing the brilliant result, and atoning for the 
manner of acquiring, by the manner of expending it. I do 
not charge the merchant or the manufacturer. The sins 
of our trade belong to no class, to no individual. One plucks, 
one distributes, one eats. Every body partakes, every body 
confesses, — with cap and knee volunteers his confession, yet 
none feels himself accountable. He did not create the abuse; 
he cannot alter it. What is he? an obscure private person 
who must get his bread. That is the vice, — that no one feels 
himself called to act for man, but only as a fraction of man. 
It happens therefore that all such ingenuous souls as feel 
within themselves the irrepressible strivings of a noble aim, 
who by the law of their nature must act simply, find these 
ways of trade unfit for them, and they come forth from it. 
Such cases are becoming more numerous every year. 

But by coming out of trade you have not cleared yourself. 
The trail of the serpent reaches into all the lucrative pro- 
fessions and practices of man. Each has its own wrongs. 



MAN THE REFORMER 311 

Each finds a tender and very intelligent conscience a dis-» 
qualification for success. Each requires of the practitioner 
a certain shutting of the eyes, a certain dapperness and 
compliance, an acceptance of customs, a sequestration from 
the sentiments of generosity and love, a compromise of 
private opinion and lofty integrity. Nay, the evil custom 
reaches into the whole institution of property, imtil our laws 
which estabhsh and protect it, seem not to be the issue of 
love and reason, but of selfishness. Suppose a man is so 
unhappy as to be born a saint, with keen perceptions, but 
with the conscience and love of an angel, and he is to get his 
living in the world; he finds himself excluded from all lu- 
crative works; he has no farm, and he cannot get one; for, 
to earn money enough to buy one, requires a sort of con- 
centration toward money, which is the selling himself for a 
number of years, and to him the present hour is as sacred 
and inviolable as any future hour. Of course, whilst another 
man has no land, my title to mine, your title to yours, is at 
once vitiated. Inextricable seem to be the twinings and 
tendrils of this evil, and we all involve ourselves in it the 
deeper by forming connections, by wives and children, by 
benefits and debts. 

Considerations of this kind have turned the attention of 
many philanthropic and intelligent persons to the claims of 
manual labor, as a part of the education of every young 
man. If the accumulated wealth of the past generation is 
thus tainted, — ^no matter how much of it is offered to us, — 
we must begin to consider if it were not the nobler part to 
renounce it, and to put ourselves into primary relations with 
the soil and nature, and abstaining from whatever is dis- 
honest and unclean, to take each of us bravely his part, with 
his own hands, in the manual labor of the world. 

But it is said, "What! will you give up the inmiense ad- 
vantages reaped from the division of labor, and set every 
man to make his own shoes, bureau, knife, wagon, sails, and 
needle? This would be to put men back into barbarism by 
their own act." I see no instant prospect of a virtuous rev- 
olution; yet I confess, I should not be pained at a change 
which threatened a loss of some of the luxuries or conven- 



312 MAN THE REFORMER 

iences of society, if it proceeded from a preference of the 
agricultural life out of the belief, that our primary duties 
as men could be better discharged in that calling. Who 
could regret to see a high conscience and a purer taste ex- 
ercising a sensible effect on young men in their choice of 
occupation, and thinning the ranks of competition in the 
labors of commerce, of law, and of state? It is easy to see 
that the inconvenience would last but a short time. This 
would be great action, which always opens the eyes of men. 
When many persons shall have done this, when the majority 
shall admit the necessity of reform in all these institutions, 
their abuses will be redressed, and the way will be open again 
to the advantages which arise from the di^^sion of labor, 
and a man may select the fittest employment for his 
peculiar talent, again, without compromise. 

But quite apart from the emphasis which the times give 
to the doctrine, that the manual labor of society ought to 
be shared among all the members, there are reasons proper 
to every individual, why he should not be deprived of it. 
The usQ of manual labor is one which never grows obsolete, 
and which is inapplicable to no person. A man should have 
a farm or a mechanical craft for his culture. We must have 
a basis for our higher accomplishments, our delicate enter- 
tainments of poetry and philosophy, in the work of our 
hands. We must have an antagonism in the tough world for 
all the variety of our spiritual faculties, or they will not be 
born. Manual labor is the study of the external world. 
The advantage of riches remains with him who procured 
them, not with the heir. When I go into my garden with a 
spade, and dig a bed, I feel such an exhilaration and health, 
that I discover that I have been defrauding myself all this 
time in letting others do for me what I should have done 
with my own hands. But not only health, but education is 
in the work. Is it possible that I who get indefinite quanti- 
ties of sugar, hominy, cotton, buckets, crockery ware, and 
letter paper, by simply signing my name once in three 
months to a cheque in favor of John Smith and Co., traders, 
get the fair share of exercise to my faculties by that act, 
which nature intended for me in making all these far- 



MAN THE REFORMER 313 

fetched matters important to my comfort? It is Smith 
himself, and his carriers, and dealers, and manufacturers, 
it is the sailor, the hidedrogher, the butcher, the negro, the 
hunter, and the planter, who have intercepted the sugar of 
the sugar, and the cotton of the cotton. They have got 
the education, I only the commodity. This were all very 
well if I were necessarily absent, being detained by work of 
my own, like theirs, work of the same faculties; then should 
I be sure of my hands and feet, but now I feel some shame 
before my wood-chopper, my ploughman, and my cook, for 
they have some sort of selfnsulficiency, they can contrive 
without my aid to bring the day and year round, but I 
depend on them, and have not earned by use a right to my 
arms and feet. 

Consider further the difference between the first and 
second owner of property. Every species of property is 
preyed on by its own enemies, as iron by rust; timber by 
rot; cloth by moths; provisions by mould, putridity, or 
vermin; money by thieves; an orchard by insects; a planted 
field by weeds and the inroad of cattle; a stock of cattle by 
hunger; a road by rain and frost; a bridge by freshets. And 
whoever takes any of these things into his possession, takes 
the charge of defending them from this troop of enemies, or 
of keeping them in repair. A man who supplies his own 
want, who builds a raft or a boat to go a-fishing, finds it easy 
to caulk it, or put in a thole-pin, or mend the rudder. What 
he gets only as fast as he wants for his own ends, does not 
embarrass him, or take away his sleep with looking after. 
But when he comes to give all the goods he has year after 
year collected, in one estate to his son, house, orchard, 
ploughed land, cattle, bridges, hardware, wooden-ware, 
carpets, cloths, provisions, booto, money, and cannot give 
him the skill and experience which made or collected these, 
and the method and place they have in his own life, the son 
finds his hands full, — ^not to use these things, — ^but to look 
after them and defend them from their natural enemies. 
To him they are not means, but masters. Their enemies 
will not remit; rust, mould, vermin, rain, sun, freshet, fire, 
all seize their own, fill him with vexation, and he is con^ 



314 MAN THE REFORMER 

verted from the owner into a watch-man or a watch-dog to 
this magazine of old and new chattels. What a change! 
Instead of the masterly good humor, and sense of power, 
and fertility of resource in himself; instead of those strong 
and learned hands, those piercing and learned eyes, that 
supple body, and that mighty and prevailing heart, which 
the father had, whom nature loved and feared, whom snow 
and rain, water and land, beast and fish seemed all to know 
and to serve, we have now a puny, protected person, guarded 
by walls and curtains, stoves and down beds, coaches, and 
men-servants and women-servants from the earth and the 
sky, and who, bred to depend on all these, is made anxious 
by all that endangers those possessions, and is forced to 
spend so much time in guarding them, that he has quite 
lost sight of their original use, namely, to help him to his 
ends, — ^to the prosecution of his love; to the helping of his 
friend, to the worship of his God, to the enlargement of his 
knowledge, to the serving of his country, to the indulgence 
of his sentiment, and he is now what is called a rich man, — 
the menial and runner of his riches. 

Hence it happens that the whole interest of history lies 
in the fortunes of the poor. Knowledge, Virtue, Power are 
the victories of man over his necessities, his march to the 
dominion of the world. Every man ought to have this 
opportunity to conquer the world for himself. Only such 
persons interest us, Spartans, Romans, Saracens, English, 
Americans, who have stood in the jaws of need, and have 
by their own wit and might extricated themselves, and made 
man victorious. 

I do not wish to overstate this doctrine of labor, or in- 
sist that every man should be a farmer, any more than 
that every man should be a lexicographer. In general, one 
may say, that the husbandman's is the oldest, and most 
universal profession, and that where a man does not yet 
discover in himself any fitness for one work more than 
another, this may be preferred. But the doctrine of the Farm 
is merely this, that every man ought to stand in primary 
relations with the work of the world, ought to do it himself, 
and not to suffer the accident of his having a purse in his 



MAN THE REFORMER 316 

pocket, or his having been bred to some dishonorable and 
injurious craft, to sever him from those duties; and for this 
reason, that labor is God's education; that he only is a 
sincere learner, he only can become a master, who learns the 
secrets of labor, and who by real cunning extorts from 
nature its sceptre. 

Neither would I shut my ears to the plea of the learned 
professions, of the poet, the priest, the lawgiver, and men 
of study generally; namely, that in the experience of all 
men of that class, the amount of manual labor which is 
necessary to the maintenance of a family, indisposes and 
disqualifies for intellectual exertion. I know, it often, per- 
haps usually, happens, that where there is a fine organization 
apt for poetry and philosophy, that individual finds himself 
compelled to wait on his thoughts, to waste several days 
that he may enhance and glorify one; and is better taught 
by a moderate and dainty exercise, such as rambling in 
the fields, rowing, skating, hunting, than by the downright 
drudgery of the farmer and the smith. I would not quite 
forget the venerable counsel of the Egyptian mysteries, 
which declared that "there were two pairs of eyes in man, 
and it is requisite that the pair which are beneath should be 
closed, when the pair that are above them perceive, and 
that when the pair above are closed, those which are beneath 
should be opened." Yet I will suggest that no separation 
from labor can be without some loss of power and of truth 
to the seer himself; that, I doubt not, the faults and vices 
of our literature and philosophy, their too great fineness, 
effeminacy, and melancholy, are attributable to the ener- 
vated and sickly habits of the literary class. Better that 
the book should not be quite so good, and the bookmaker 
abler and better, and not himself often a ludicrous contrast 
to all that he has written. 

But granting that for ends so sacred and dear, some 
relaxation must be had, I think, that if a man find in himself 
any strong bias to poetry, to art, to the contemplative life, 
drawing him to these things with a devotion incompatible 
with good husbandry, that man ought to reckon early with 
himself, and, respecting the compensations of the Universe, 



316 MAN THE REFORMER 

ought to ransom himself from the duties of economy, by a 
certain rigor and privation in his habit. For privileges so 
rare and grand, let him not stint to pay a great tax. Let 
him be a csenobite, a pauper, and if needs be, celibate also. 
Let him learn to eat his meals standing, and to relish the 
taste of fair water and black bread. He may leave to others 
the costly conveniences of housekeeping, and large hospi- 
tality, and the possession of works of art. Let him feel that 
genius is a hospitality, and that he who can create works of 
art needs not collect them. He must live in a chamber, and 
postpone his self-indulgence, forewarned and forearmed 
against that frequent misfortune of men of genius, — ^the taste 
for luxury. This is the tragedy of genius, — attempting to 
drive along the ecliptic with one horse of the heavens and one 
horse of the earth, there is only discord and ruin and down- 
fall to chariot and charioteer. 

The duty that every man should assume his own vows, 
should call the institutions of society to account, and examine 
their fitness to him, gains in emphasis, if we look at our modes 
of living. Is our housekeeping sacred and honorable? Does 
it raise and inspire us, or does it cripple us instead? I ought 
to be armed by every part and function of my household, 
by all my social function, by my economy, by my f eastings, 
by my voting, by my traffic. Yet I am almost no party 
to any of these things. Custom does it for me, gives me no 
power therefrom, and runs me in debt to boot. We spend 
our incomes for paint and paper, for a hundred trifles, I 
know not what, and not for the things of a man. Our 
expense is almost all for conformity. It is for cake that we 
run in debt; 't is not the intellect, not the heart, not beauty, 
not worship, that costs so much. Why needs any man 
be rich? Wliy must he have horses, fine garments, hand- 
some apartments, access to public houses, and places of 
amusement? Only for want of thought. Give his mind a 
new image, and he flees into a solitary garden or garret to 
enjoy it, and is richer with that dream, than the fee of a 
county could make him. But we are first thoughtless, and 
then find that we are moneyless. We are first sensual, and 
then must be rich. We dare not trust our wit for making 



MAN THE REFORMER 817 

our house pleasant to our friend, and so we buy ice-creams. 
He is accustomed to carpets, and we have not sufficient 
character to put floor-cloths out of his mind whilst he stays 
in the house, and so we pile the floor with carpets. Let 
the house rather be a temple of the Furies of Lacedsemon, 
formidable and holy to all, which none but a Spartan may 
enter or so much as behold. As soon as there is faith, as 
soon as there is society, comflts and cushions will be left 
to slaves. Expense will be inventive and heroic. We shall 
eat hard and lie hard, we shall dwell like the ancient Romans 
in narrow tenements, whilst our public edifices, like theirs, 
will be worthy for their proportion of the landscape in 
which we set them, for conversation, for art, for music, for 
worship. We shall be rich to great purposes; poor only 
for selfish ones. 

Now what help for these evils? How can the man who 
has learned but one art, procure all the conveniences of fife 
honestly? Shall we say all we think? — Perhaps with his 
own hands. Suppose he collects or makes them ill; — ^yet 
he has learned their lesson. If he cannot do that. — ^Then 
perhaps he can go without. Immense wisdom and riches 
are in that. It is better to go without, than to have them 
at too great a cost. Let us learn the meaning of economy. 
Economy is a high, humane oflice, a sacrament, when its 
aim is grand; when it is the prudence of simple tastes, when 
it is practised for freedom, or love, or devotion. Much of 
the economy which we see in houses, is of a base origin, and 
is best kept out of sight. Parched corn eaten to-day that 
I may have roast fowl to my dinner on Sunday, is a base- 
ness; but parched corn and a house with one apartment, 
that I may be free of all perturbations, that I may be 
serene and docile to what the mind shall speak, and girt 
and road-ready for the lowest mission of knowledge or 
goodwill, is frugality for gods and heroes. 

Can we not learn the lesson of self-help? Society is 
full of infirm people, who incessantly summon others to 
serve them. They contrive everywhere to exhaust for their 
single comfort the entire means and appliances of that luxury 
to which our inventon has yet attained. Sofas, ottomans. 



318 MAN THE REFORMER 

stoveBy wine, game^fowl, spices, perfumes, rides, the theatre, 
entertainments, — ^all these they want, they need, and what- 
ever can be suggested more than these, they crave also, as 
if it was the bread which should keep them from starving; 
and if they miss any one, they represent themselves as the 
most wronged and most wretched persons on earth. One 
must have been bom and bred with them to know how to 
prepare a meal for their learned stomach. Meantime, they 
never bestir themselves to serve another person; not they! 
they have a great deal more to do for themselves than they 
can possibly perform, nor do they once perceive the cruel 
joke of their lives, but the more odious they grow, the 
sharper is the tone of their complaining and craving. Can 
anything be so elegant as to have few wants and to serve 
them one's self, so as to have somewhat left to give, instead 
of being always prompt to grab? It is more elegant to 
answer one's own needs, than to be richly served; inelegant 
perhaps it may look to-day, and to a few, but it is an ele- 
gance forever and to all. 

I do not wish to be absurd and pedantic in reform. I 
do not wish to push my criticism on the state of things 
around me to that extravagant mark, that shall compel 
me to suicide, or to an absolute isolation from the advantages 
of civil society. If we suddenly plant our foot, and say, — 
I will neither eat nor drink nor wear nor touch any food 
or fabric which I do not know to be innocent, or deal with 
any person whose whole manner of life is not clear and 
rational, we shall stand still. Whose is so? Not mine; not 
thine; not his. But I think we must clear ourselves each 
one by the interrogation, whether we have earned our bread 
to-day by the hearty contribution of our energies to the 
common benefit? and we must not cease to tend to the 
correction of these flagrant wrongs, by laying one stone 
aright every day. 

But the idea which now begins to agitate society has a 
wider scope than our daily employments, our households, 
and the institutions of property. We are to revise the 
whole of our social structure, the state, the school, religion, 
marriage, trade, science, and explore their foundations in 



MAN THE REFOBMER 319 

our own nature; we are to see that the world not only 
fitted the former men^ but fits us, and to clear ourselves of 
every usage which has not its roots in our own mind. 
What is a man bom for, but to be a Reformer, a Re-maker 
of what man has made; a renouncer of lies; a restorer of 
truth and good, imitating that great Nature which embosoms 
us all, and which sleeps no moment on an old past, but 
every hour repairs herself, yielding us every morning a 
new day, and with every pulsation a new life? Let him 
renounce everything which is not true to him, and put all 
his practices back on their first thoughts, and do nothing 
for which he has not the whole world for his reason. If 
there are inconveniences, and what is called ruin in the way, 
because we have so enervated and maimed ourselves, yet 
it would be like dying of perfumes to sink in the effort to 
reattach the deeds of every day to the holy and mysterious 
recesses of life. ^ 

The power, which is at once spring and regulator in all 
efforts of reform, is the conviction that there is an infinite 
worthiness in man which will appear at the call of worth, 
and that all particular reforms are the removing of some 
impediment. Is it not the highest duty that man should 
be honored in us? I ought not to allow any man, because 
he has broad lands, to feel that he is rich in my presence. 
I ought to make him feel that I can do without his riches, 
that I cannot be bought, — neither by comfort, neither by 
pride, — and though I be utterly penniless, and receiving 
bread from him, that he is the poor man beside me. And 
if, at the same time, a woman or a child discovers a senti- 
ment of piety, or a juster way of thinking than mine, I 
ought to confess it by my respect and obedience, though 
it go to alter my whole way of life. 

Tte Americans have many virtues, but they have not 
Faith and Hope. I know no two words whose meaning is 
more lost sight of. We use these words as if they were as 
obsolete as Selah and Amen. And yet they have the broad- 
est meaning, and the most cogent application to Boston in 
1841. The Americans have no faith. They rely on the 
power of a dollar; they are deaf to a sentiment. They think 



320 MAN THE REFORMER 

you may talk the north wind down as easily as raise society; 
and no class more faithless than the scholars or intellectual 
men. Now if I talk with a sincere wise man, and my friend, 
with a poet, with a conscientious youth who is still under 
the dominion of his own wild thoughts, and not yet har- 
nessed in the team of society to drag with iis all in the ruts of 
custom, I see at once how paltry is all this generation of 
unbelievers, and what a house of cards their institutions are, 
and I see what one brave man, what one great thought ex- 
ecuted might effect. I see that the reason of the distrust 
of the practical man in all theory, is his inability to perceive 
the means whereby we work. Look, he says, at the tools 
with which this world of yours is to be built. As we cannot 
make a planet, with atmosphere, rivers, and forests, by 
means of tlie best carpenters' or engineers' tools, witii 
chemist's laboratory and smith's forge to boot, — so neither 
can we ever construct that heavenly society yoii prate of, 
out of foolish, sick, selfish men and women, such as we know 
them to be. But the believer not only beholds his heaven 
to be possible, but already to begin to exist, — ^not by the 
men or materials the statesman uses, but by men trans- 
figured and raised above themselves by the power of prin- 
ciples. To principles something else is possible that tran- 
scends all the power of expedients. 

Every great and commanding moment in the annals of 
the world is the triumph of some enthusiasm. The victories 
of the Arabs after Mahomet, who, in a few years, from a 
small and mean beginning, established a larger empire than 
that of Rome, is an example. They did they knew not what. 
The naked Derar, horsed on an idea, was found an overmatidi 
for a troop of Roman cavalry. The women fought like men, 
and conquered the Roman men. They were miserably 
equipped, miserably fed. They were Temperance troops. 
There was neither brandy nor flesh needed to feed them. 
They conquered Asia, and Africa, and Spain, on barley. The 
Caliph Omar's walking stick struck more terror into those 
who saw it, than another man's sword. His diet was barley 
bread: his sauce was salt; and oftentimes by way of absti- 
nence he ate his bread without salt. His dripk was water. 



MAN THE REFORMER 321 

His palace was built of mud; and when he left Medina to 
go to the conquest of Jersualem, he rode on a red camel, 
with a wooden platter hanging at his saddle, with a bottle 
of water and two sacks, one holding barley, and the other 
dried fruits. 

But there will dawn ere long on our politics, on our modes 
of living, a nobler morning than that Arabian faith, in the 
sentiment of love. This is the one remedy for all ills, the 
panacea of nature. We must be lovers, and at once the 
impossible becomes possible. Our age and history, for 
these thousand years, has not been the history of kindness, 
but of selfishness. Our distrust is very expensive. The 
money we spend for courts and prisons is very ill laid out. 
We make, by distrust, the thief, and burglar, and incendiary, 
and by our court and jail we keep him so. An acceptance 
of the sentiment of love throughout Christendom for a 
season, would bring the felon and the outcast to our side in 
tears, with the devotion of his faculties to our service. See 
this wide society of laboring men and women. We allow 
ourselves to be served by them, we live apart from them, and 
meet them without a salute in the streets. We do not greet 
their talents, nor rejoice in their good fortune, nor foster 
their hopes, nor in the assembly of the people vote for what 
is dear to them. Thus we enact the part of the selfish 
noble and king from the foundation of the world. See, this 
tree always bears one fruit. In every household, the peace 
of a pair is poisoned by the malice, sl3aiess, indolence, and 
alienation of domestics. Let any two matrons meet, and 
observe how soon their conversation turns on the troubles 
from their "help/' as our phrase is. In every knot of labor- 
ers, the rich man does not feel himself among his friends, — 
and at the polls he finds them arrayed in a mass in distinct 
opposition to him. We complain that the politics of masses 
of the people are controlled by designing men, and led in 
opposition to manifest justice and the common weal, and to 
their own interest. But the people do not wish to be repre- 
sented or ruled by the ignorant and base. They only vote 
for these, because they were asked with the voice and 
semblance of kindness. They will not vote for them long 



322 MAN THE REFORMER 

They inevitably prefer wit and probity. To use an Egjrptian 
metaphor, it is not their will for any long time "to raise 
the nails of wild beasts^ and to depress the heads of the 
sacred birds." Let our affection flow out to our fellows; 
it would operate in a day the greatest of all revolutions. 
It is better to work on institutions by the sun than by the 
wind. The state must consider the poor man, and all voices 
must speak for him. Every child that is bom must have a 
just chance for his bread. Let the amelioration in our laws 
of property proceed from the concession of the rich, not 
from the grasping of the poor. Let us begin by habitual 
imparting. Let us understand that the equitable rule is, 
that no one should take more than his share, let him be ever 
so rich. Let me feel that I am to be a lover. I am to see 
to it that the world is the better for me, and to find my 
reward in the act. Love would put a new face on this 
weary old world in which we dwell as pagans and enemies 
too long, and it would warm the heart to see how fast the 
vain diplomacy of statesmen, the impotence of armies, and 
navies, and lines of defence, would be superseded by this 
unarmed child. Love will creep where it cannot go, will 
accomplish that by imperceptible methods, — ^being its own 
lever, fulcrum, and power, — which force could never 
achieve. Have you not seen in the woods, in a late autunm 
morning, a poor fungus or mushroom, — sl plant without any 
solidity, nay, that seemed nothing but a soft mush or jelly, — 
by its constant, total, and inconceivably gentle pushing, 
manage to break its way up through the frosty ground, 
and actually to lift a hard crust on its head? It is the 
symbol of the power of kindness. The virtue of this prin- 
ciple in human society in application to great interests is 
obsolete and forgotten. Once or twice in history it has been 
tried in illustrious instances, with signal success. This 
great, overgrown, dead Christendom of ours still keeps alive 
at least the name of a lover of mankind. But one day all 
men will be lovers; and every calamity wiU be dissolved in 
the imiversal sunshine. 

Will you suffer me to add one trait more to this portrait 
of man the reformer? The mediator between the spiritual 



MAN THE REFORMER 323 

and the actual world should have a great prospective 
prudence. An Arabian poet describes his hero by saying, 

"Sunshine was he 
In the winter day; 
And in the midsummer 
Coohiess and shade." 

He who would help himself and others, should not be a 
subject of irregular and interrupted impulses of virtue, but 
a continent, persisting, immovable person, — such as we have 
seen a few scattered up and down in time for the blessing 
of the world, men who have in the gravity of their nature a 
quahty which answers to the fly-wheel in a mill, which dis- 
tributes the motion equably over all the wheels, and hinders 
it from falling imequally and suddenly in destructive shocks. 
It is better that joy should be spread over all the day in 
the form of strength, than that it should be concentrated 
into ecstasies, full of danger and followed by reactions. 
There is a sublime prudence, which is the very highest that 
we know of man, which, believing in a vast future, — sure of 
more to come than is yet seen, — postpones always the present 
hour to the whole life; postpones talent to genius, and 
special results to character. As the merchant gladly takes 
money from his income to add to his capital, so is the great 
man very willing to lose particular powers and talents, so 
that he gain in the elevation of his hfe. The opening of 
the spiritual senses disposes men ever to greater sacrifices, 
to leave their signal talents, their best means and skill of 
procuring a present success, their power and their fame, — 
to cast all things behind, in the insatiable thirst for divine 
communications. A purer fame, a greater power rewards 
the sacrifice. It is the conversion of our harvest into seed. 
As the farmer casts into the ground the finest ears of his 
grain, the time will come when we too shall hold nothing 
back, but shall eagerly convert more than we now possess 
into means and powers, when we shall be willing to sow the 
sun and the moon for seeds. 



xvn 

THE CONSERVATIVE 

A Lecture delivered at the Masonic Temple, Boston, 

December 9, 1841 

The two parties which divide the state, the party of 
Conservatism and that of Innovation, are very old, and 
have disputed the possession of the world ever since it was 
made. This quarrel is the subject of civil history. The 
conservative party established the reverend hierarchies and 
monarchies of the most ancient world. The battle of pa- 
trician and plebeian, of parent state and colony, of old usage 
and accoBomodation to new facts, of the rich and the poor 
reappears in all countries and times. The war rages not 
only in battle-fields, in natural councils, and ecclesiastical 
synods, but agitates every man's bosom with opposing 
advantages every hour. On rolls the old world meantime 
and now one, now the other gets the day, and still the fight 
renews itself as if for the first time, under new names and 
hot personaUties. 

Such an irreconcilable antagonism, of course, must have 
a correspondent depth of seat in the human constitution. It 
is the opposition of Past and Future, of Memory and Hope, 
of the Understanding and the Reason. It is the primal 
antagonism, the appearance in trifles of the two poles of 
nature. 

There is a fragment of old fable which seems somehow to 
have been dropped from the current m3rthologies, which 
may deserve attention, as it appears to relate to this 
subject. 

Saturn grew weary of sitting alone, or with none but the 
great Uranus or Heaven beholding him, and he created an 
oyster. Then he would act again, but he made nothing more 
but went on creating the race of oysters. Then Uranus 
cried, "A new work, Saturn! the old is not good again. 

324 



n 



THE CONSERVATIVE 326 

' Saturn replied. "I fear. There is not only the alternative 
of making and not making, but also of unmaking. Seest 
thou the great sea, how it ebbs and flows? so is it with me; 
my power ebbs; and if I put forth my hands, I shall not do, 
but undo. Therefore I do what I have done; I hold what 
I have got; and so I resist Night and Chaos.'' 

"0 Saturn," replied Uranus, "thou canst not hold thine 
own, but by making more. Thy oysters are barnacles and 
cockles, and with the next flowing of the tide, they will be 
pebbles and rea-foam." 

"I see," rejoins Saturn, "thou art in league with Night, 
thou art become an evil eye; thou spakest from love; now 
thy words smite me with hatred. I appeal to Fate, must 
there not be rest?" — "I appeal to Fate also," said Uranus, 
"must there not be motion?" — But Saturn was silent, and 
went on making oysters for a thousand years. 

After that, the word of Uranus came into his mind like a 
ray of the sun, and he made Jupiter; and then he feared 
again; and nature froze, the things that were made went 
backward, and, to save the world, Jupiter slew his father 
Saturn. 

This may stand for the earhest account of a conversation 
on poHtics between a Conservative and a Radical, which 
has come down to us. It is ever thus. It is the counter^ 
action of the centripetal and the centrifugal forces. In- 
novation is the saUent energy; Conservatism the pause on 
the last movement. "That which is was made by God," 
saith Conservatism. "He is leaving that, he is entering this 
other;" rejoins Innovation. 

There is always a certain meanness in the argument of con- 
servatism, joined with a certain superiority in its fact. It 
affirms because it holds. Its fingers clutch the fact, and it 
will not open its eyes to see a better fact. The castle, which 
conservatism is set to defend, is the actual state of things, 
good and bad. The project of innovation is the best possible 
state of things. Of course, conservatism alwa3rs has the 
worst of the argument, is always apologizing, pleading a 
necessity, pleading that to change would be to deteriorate; it 
must saddle itself with the mountainous load of violence 



326 THE CONSERVATIVB 

and vice of society, must deny the possibility of good, deny 
ideas, and suspect and stone the prophet; whilst innovation 
is always in the right, triumphant, attacking, and sure of 
final success. Conservatism stands on man's confessed 
limitations; reform on his indisputable infinitude, conserv- 
atism on circumstance; Hberalism on power; one goes to 
make an adroit member of the social frame; the other to 
postpone all things to the man himself; conservatism is 
debonair and social; reform is individual and imperious 
We are reformers in spring and summer; in autumn and 
winter, we stand by the old; reformers in the morning, con- 
servers at night. Reform is affirmative, conservatism nega- 
tive; conservatism goes for comfort, reform for truth. 
Conservatism is more candid to behold another's worth; 
reform more disposed to maintain and increase its own. 
Conservatism makes no poetry, breathes no prayer, has no 
invention; it is all memory. Reform has no gratitude, no 
prudence, no husbandry. It makes a great difference to 
your figure and to your thought, whether your foot is ad- 
vancing or receding. Conservatism never puts the foot for- 
ward; in the hour when it does that, it is not establishment, 
but reform. Conservatism tends to universal seeming and 
treachery, believes in a negative fate; believes that man's 
temper governs them; that for me, it avails not to trust in 
principles; they will fail me; I must bend a little; it distrusts 
nature; it thinks there is a general law without a particular 
application, — ^law for all that does not include any one. 
Reform in its antagonism inclines to asinine resistance, to 
kick with hoofs; it runs to egotism and bloated self-conceit; 
it runs to a bodiless pretension, to unnatural refining and 
elevation, which ends in hypocrisy and sensual reaction. 

And so whilst we do not go beyond general statements, it 
may be safely affirmed of these two metaphysical antagonists, 
that each is a good half, but an impossible whole. Each ex- 
poses the abuses of the other, but in a true society, in a 
true man, both must combine. Nature does not give the 
crown of its approbation, namely, beauty, to any action or 
emblem or actor, but to one which combines both these 
elements; not to the rock which resists the waves from age 



THE CONSERVATIVE 327 

to age, nor to the wave which lashes uicessantly the rock, but 
the superior beauty is with the oak which stands with its 
hundred arms against the storms of a century, and grows 
every year hke a sapling; or the river which ever flowing, 
yet is foimd in the same bed from age to age; or, grandest 
of all, the man who has subsisted for years amid the changes 
of nature, yet has distanced himself, so that when you re- 
member what he was, and see what he is, you say, What 
strides! what a disparity is here! 

Throughout nature the past combines in every creature 
with the present. Each of the convolutions of the sea-shell, 
each node and spine marks one year of the fish's hfe, what 
was the mouth of the shell for one season, with the addition 
of new matter by the growth of the animal, becoming an 
ornamental node. The leaves and a shell of soft wood are 
all that the vegetation of this summer has made, but the 
soUd columnar stem, which hfts that bank of foliage into 
the air to draw the eye and to cool us with its shade, is the 
gift and legacy of dead and buried years. 

In nature, each of these elements being always present, 
each theory has a natural support. As we take our stand 
on Necessity, or on Ethics, shall we go for the conservative, 
or for the reformer. If we read the world historically, we 
shall say, Of all the ages the present hour and circumstance 
is the cmnulative result; this is the best throw of the dice 
of nature that has yet been, or that is yet possible. If we 
see it from the side of Will, or the Moral Sentiment, we shall 
accuse the Past and the Present, and require the impossible 
of the Future. 

But although this bif old fact Ues thus muted in real nature, 
and so united that no man can continue to exist in whom 
both these elements do not work, yet men are not philoso- 
phers, but are rather very foolish children, who, by reason 
of their partiality, see everything in the most absurd manner, 
and are the victims at all times of the nearest object. There 
is even no philosopher who is a philosopher at all times. Our 
exi)erience, our perception is conditioned by the need to ac- 
quire in parts and in succession, that is, with every truth 
a certain falsehood. As this is the invariable method of our 



328 THE CONSERVATIVE 

training, we must give it allowance, and suffer men to learn 
as they have done for six millenniums, a word at a time, to 
pair off into insane parties, and learn the amount of truth 
each knows, by the denial of an equal amount of truth. For. 
the present, then, to come at what sum is attainable to us, 
we must even hear the parties plead as parties. 

That which is best about conservatism, that which, though 
it cannot be expressed in detail, inspires reverence in all, is 
the Inevitable. There is the question not only, what the con- 
servative says for himself? but, why must he say it? What 
insurmountable fact binds him to that side? Here is the 
fact which men call Fate, and fate in dread degrees, fate 
behind fate, not to be disposed of by the consideration that 
the Conscience commands this or that, but necessitating 
the question, whether the faculties of man will play him 
true in resisting the facts of universal experience? For 
although the commands of the Conscience are essentially 
absolute, they are historically limitary. Wisdom does not 
seek a literal rectitude, but an useful, that is, a conditioned 
one, such a one as the faculties of man and the constitution of 
things will warrant. The reformer, the partisan loses him- 
self in driving to the utmost some specialty of right conduct, 
until his own nature and all nature resists him; but Wisdom 
attempts nothing enormous and disproportioned to its 
powers, nothing which it cannot perform or nearly perform. 
We have all a certain intellection or presentiment of reform 
existing in the mind, which does not yet descend into the 
character, and those who throw themselves blindly on this 
lose themselves. Whatever they attempt in that direction, 
fails, and reacts suicidally on the actor himself. This is 
the penalty of having transcended nature. For the ex- 
isting world is not a dream, and cannot with impunity be 
treated as a dream; neither is it a disease; but it is the 
ground on which you stand, it is the mother of whom you 
were bom. Reform converses with possibilities, perchance 
with impossibilities; but here is sacred fact. This also was 
true, or it could not be: it had Ufe in it, or it could not have 
existed; it has life in it, or it could not continue. Your 
schemes may be feasible, or may not be, but this has the 



THE CONSERVATIVE 329 

endorsement of nature and a long friendship and cohabita- 
tion with the powers of nature. This will stand until a 
better cast of dice is made. The contest between the 
Future and the Past is one between Divinity entering, and 
Divinity departing. You are welcome to try your experi- 
ments, and, if you can, to displace the actual order by that 
ideal republic you announce, for nothing but God will expel 
God. But plainly the burden of the proof must He with the 
projector. We hold to this, until you can demonstrate 
something better. 

The system of property and law goes back for its origin 
to barbarous and sacred times; it is the fruit of the same 
mysterious cause as the mineral or animal world. There is 
a natural sentiment and prepossession in favor of age, of 
ancestors, of barbarous and aboriginal usages, which is a 
homage to the element of necessity and divinity which is 
in them. The respect for the old names of places, of moim- 
tains, and streams, is imiversal. The Indian and barbarous 
name can never be supplanted without loss. The ancients 
tell us that the gods loved the Ethiopians for their stable 
customs; and the Egyptians and Chaldeans, whose origin 
could not be explored, passed among the junior tribes of 
Greece and Italy for sacred nations. 

Moreover, so deep is the foundation of the existing 
social system, that it leaves no one out of it. We may be 
partial, but Fate is not. All men have their root in it. 
You who quarrel with the arrangements of society, and are 
willing to embroil all, and risk the indisputable good that 
exists, for the chance of better, live, move and have your 
being in this, and your deeds contradict your words every 
day. For as you cannot jump from the ground without 
using the resistance of the ground, nor put out the boat to 
sea, without shoving from the shore, nor attain liberty with- 
out rejecting obligation, so you are under the necessity of 
using the Actual order of things, in order to disuse it; to 
live by it, whilst you wish to take away its life. The past 
has baked your loaf, and in the strength of its bread you 
would break up the oven. But you are betrayed by your 
own nature. You alsft are conserva^-ves. However men 



330 THE CONSERVATIVE 

please to style themselves, I see no other than a conservative 
party. You are not only identical with us in your needs, 
but also in your methods and aims. You quarrel with my 
conservatism, but it is to build up one of your own; it will 
have a new beginning, but the same course and end, the same 
trials, the same passions; among the lovers of the new I 
observe that there is a jealousy of the newest, and that the 
seceder from the seceder is as damnable as the pope himself. 

On these and the like grounds of general statement, con- 
servatism plants itself without danger of being displaced. 
Especially before this personal appeal, the innovator must 
confess his weakness, must confess that no man is to be 
foimd good enough to be entitled to stand champion for 
the principle. But when this great tendency comes to 
practical encounters, and is challenged by young men, to 
whom it is no abstraction, but a fact of hunger, distress, and 
exclusion from opportunities, it must needs seem injurious. 
The youth, of course, is an innovator by the fact of bis 
birth. There he stands, newly bom on the planet, a uni- 
versal beggar, with all the reason of things, one would say, 
on his side. In Ins first consideration how to feed, clothe, 
and warm himself, he is met by warnings on every hand, 
that this thing and that thing have owners, and he must go 
elsewhere. Then he says; If I am bom into the earth, where 
is my part? have the goodness, gentlemen of this world, to 
show me my wood-lot, where I may fell my wood, my field 
where to plant my com, my pleasant groimd where to build 
my cabin. 

"Touch any wood, or field, or house-lot, on your peril," 
cry all the gentlemen of this world; "but you may come and 
work in ours, for us and we will give you a piece of bread." 

And what is that peril? 

Knives and muskets, if we meet you in the act: imprison- 
ment, if we find you afterward. 

And by what authority, kind gentlemen? 

By our law. 

And your law, — ^is it just? 

As just for you as it was for us. We wrought for others 
under this law, and got our lands so. 



THE CONSERVATIVE 331 

I repeat the question, Is your law just? 

Not quite just, but necessary. Moreover, it is juster now 
than it was when we were bom; we have made it milder 
and more equal. 

I will none of your law, returns the youth; it encumbers 
me. I cannot understand, or so much as spare time to 
read that needless library of your laws. Nature has suf- 
ficiently provided me with rewards and sharp penalties, to 
bind me not to transgress. Like the Persian noble of old, 
I ask "that I may neither command nor obey." I do not 
wish to enter into your complex social system. I shall serve 
those whom I can, and they who can will serve me. I 
shall seek those whom I love, and shun those whom I love 
not, and what more can all your laws render me? 

With equal earnestness and good faith, replies to this 
plaintiff an upholder of the establishment, a man of many 
virtues: 

Your opposition is feather-brained and over-fine. Young 
man, I have no skill to talk with you, but look at me; I have 
risen early and sat late, and toiled honestly, and painfully 
for very many years. I never dreamed about methods; 
I laid my bones to, and drudged for the good I possess; it 
was not got by fraud, nor by luck, but by work, and you 
must show me a warrant like these stubborn facts in your 
own fidelity and labor, before I suffer you, on the faith of 
a few fine words, ta ride into my estate, and claim to scatter 
it as your own. 

Now you touch the heart of the matter, repUes the former. 
To that fidelity and labor, I pay homage. I am unworthy 
to arraign your manner of living, until I too have been tried. 
But I should be more unworthy, if I did not tell you why I 
cannot walk in your steps. I find this vast network, which 
you call property, extended over the whole planet. I can- 
not occupy the bleakest crag of the White Hills or the 
Alleghany Range, but some man or corporation steps up 
to me to show me that it is his. Now, though I am very 
peaceable, and on my private accoimt could well enough 
die, since it appears there was some mistake in my creation, 
and that I have been missent to this earth, where all the 



332 THE CONSERVATIVE 

seats were already taken, — ^yet I feel called upon in behalf 
of rational nature, which I represent, to declare to you my 
opinion, that, if the Earth is yours, so also is it mine. All 
your aggregate existences are less to me a fact than is my 
own; as I am bom to the earth, so the Earth is given to me, 
what I want of it to till and to plant; nor could I, without 
pusillanimity, omit to claim so much. I must not only have 
a name to hve, I must hve. My genius leads me to build 
a different manner of life from any* of yours. I cannot then 
spare you the whole world. I love you better. I must 
tell you the truth practically; and take that which you call 
yours. It is God's world and mine; yours as much as you 
want, mine as much as I want. Besides, I know your ways; 
I know the symptoms of the disease. To the end of your 
power, you will serve this lie which cheats you. Your want 
is a gulf which the possession of the broad earth would not 
fill. Yonder sun in heaven you would pluck down from 
shining on the universe, and make him a property and pri- 
vacy, if you could; and the moon and the north star you 
would quickly have occasion for in your closet and bed- 
chamber. What you do not want for use, you crave for 
ornament, and what your convenience could spare, your 
pride cannot. 

On the other hand, precisely the defence which was set up 
for the British Constitution, namely, that with all its ad- 
mitted defects, rotten boroughs and monopolies, it worked 
well, and substantial justice was somehow done; the wisdom 
and the worth did get into parhament, and every interest 
did by right, or might, or sleight, get represented: — ^the same 
defence is set up for the existing institutions. They are not 
the best; they are not just; and in respect to you, personally, 
brave young man! they cannot be justified. They have, 
it is most true, left you no acre for your own, and no law 
but our law, to the ordaining of which, you were no party. 
But they do answer the end, they are really friendly to the 
good; unfriendly to the bad; they second the industrious, 
and the kind; they foster genius. They really have so 
much flexibility as to afford your talent and character, on 
the whole, the same chance of demonstration and success 



THE CONSERVATIVE 333 

which they might have, if there was no law ana no property. 
It is trivial and merely superstitious to say that nothing 
is given you, no outfit, no exhibition; for in this institution 
of credit, which is as universal as honesty and promise in the 
human countenance, always some neighbor stands ready to 
be bread and land and tools and stock to the young adven- 
turer. And if in any one respect they have come short, 
see what ample retribution of good they have made. They 
have lost no time and spared no expense to collect Hbraries, 
museums, galleries, colleges, palaces, hospitals, observatories, 
cities. The ages have not been idle, nor kings slack, nor the 
rich niggardly. Have we not atoned for this small offence 
(which we could not help) of leaving you no right in the 
soil, by this splendid indemnity of ancestral and national 
wealth? Would you have been born like a gypsy in a hedge, 
and preferred your freedom on a heath, and the range of a 
planet which had no shed or boscage to cover you from 
sun and wind, — ^to this towered and citied world? to this 
world of Rome, and Memphis, and Constantinople, and 
Vienna, and Paris, and London, and New York? For thee 
Naples, Florence, and Venice, for thee the fair Mediterra- 
nean, the sunny Adriatic; for thee both Indies smile; for thee 
the hospitable North opens its heated palaces under the polar 
circle; for thee roads have been cut in every direction across 
the land, and fleets of floating palaces with every security 
for strength, and provision for luxury, swim by sail and 
by steam through all the waters of this world. Every 
island for thee has a town; every town a hotel. Though 
thou wast bom landless, yet to thy industry and thrift and 
small condescension to the established usage, — scores of ser- 
vants are swarming in every strange place with cap and 
knee to thy command, scores, nay himdreds and thousands, 
for thy wardrobe, thy table, thy chamber, thy library, thy 
leisure; and every whim is anticipated and served by the best 
ability of the whole population of each country. The king on 
the throne governs for thee, and the judge judges; the bar- 
rister pleads, the farmer tills, the joiner hammers, the post- 
man rides. Is it not exaggerating a trifle to msist on a for- 
mal acknowledgment of your claims, when these substantial 



334 THE CONSERVATIVE 

advantages have been secured to you? Now can your 
children be educated, your labor turned to their advantage, 
and its fruit secured to them after your death. It is frivo- 
lous to say, you have no acre, because you have not a mathe- 
matically measured piece of land. Providence takes care 
• that you shall have a place, that you are waited for, and 
come accredited; and, as soon as you put your gift to use, 
you shall have acre or acre's worth according to your 
exhibition of desert, — acre, if you need land; — acre's 
worth, if you prefer to draw, or carve, or make shoes, or 
wheels, to the tilling of the soil. 

Besides, it might temper your indignation at the sup- 
posed wrong which society has done you, to keep the ques- 
tion before you, how society got into this predicament? 
Who put things on this false basis? No single man, but all 
meh. No man volimtarily and knowingly; but it is the 
result of that degree of culture there is in the planet. The 
order of things is as good as the character of the population 
permits. Consider it as the work of a great and beneficent 
and progressive necessity, which, from the first pulsation of 
the first animal life, up to the present high culture of the 
best nations, has advanced thus far. Thank the rude foster- 
mother though she has taught you a better wisdom than her 
own, and has set hopes in your heart which shall be history 
in the next ages. You are yourself the result of this manner 
of living, this foul compromise, this vituperated Sodom. It 
nourished you with care and love on its breast, as it had 
nourished many a lover of the right, and many a poet, and 
prophet, and teacher of men. Is it so irremediably bad? 
Then again, if the mitigations are considered, do not all the 
mischiefs virtually vanish? The form is bad, but see you 
not how every personal character reacts on the form, and 
makes it new? A strong person makes the law and custom 
null before his own will. Then the principle of love and 
truth reappears in the strictest courts of fashion and prop- 
erty. Under the richest robes, in the darlings of the select- 
est circles of European or American aristocracy, the strong 
heart will beat with love of mankind, with impatience of 
^ccici^ntal distinct}pps^ with the desire to achieve its own 



THE CONSERVATIVE 335 

fate, and make every ornament it wears authentic and real. 

Moreover, as we have already shown that there is no 
pure reformer, so it is to be considered that there is no pure 
conservative, no man who from the beginning to the end of 
his Ufe maintains the defective institutions; but he who sets 
his face like a flint against every novelty, when approached 
in the confidence of conversation, in the presence of friendly 
and generous persons, has also his gracious and relenting 
motions, and espouses for the time the cause of man; and 
even if this be a short-Uved emotion, yet the remembrance 
of it in private hours mitigates his selfishness and com- 
pliance with custom. 

The Friar Bernard lamented in his cell on Mount Cenis 
the crimes of mankind, and rising one morning before day 
from his bed of moss and dry leaves, he gnawed his roots 
and berries, drank of the spring, and set forth to go to Rome 
to reform the corruption of mankind. On his way he en- 
countered many travelers who greeted him courteously; 
and the cabins of the peasants and the castles of the lords 
supplied his few wants. When he came at last to Rome, 
his piety and good will easily introduced him to many 
families of the rich, and on the first day he saw and talked 
with gentle mothers with their babes at their breasts, who 
told him how much love they bore their children, and how 
they were perplexed in their daily walk lest they should 
fail in their duty to them. "What!" he said, "and this on 
rich embroidered carpets, on marble floors, with cunning 
sculpture, and carved wood, and rich pictures, and piles of 
books about you?" — "Look at our pictures and books, they 
said, and we will tell you, good Father, how we spent the 
last evening. These are stories of godly children and holy 
families and romantic sacrifices made in old or in recent 
times by great and not mean persons; and last evening, our 
family was collected, and our husbands and brothers dis- 
coursed sadly on what we could save and give in the hard 
times." Then came in the men and they said, "What cheer, 
brother? Does thy convent want gifts?" Then the friar 
Bernard went home swiftly with other thoughts than he 
brought, sayioig, "This way of life is wrong, yet these 



336 THE CONSERVATIVE 

Romans, whom I prayed God to destroy, are lovers, they 
are lovers; what can I do?" 

The reformer concedes that these mitigations exist, and 
that, if he proposed comfort, he should take sides with the 
establishment. Your words are excellent, but they do not 
tell the whole. Conservatism is affluent and openhanded, 
but there is a cunning juggle in riches. I observe that they 
take somewhat for everything they pve. I look bigger, 
but am less; I have more clothes but am not so warm; more 
armor, but less courage; more books, but less wit. What 
you say of your planted, builded, and decorated world, is 
true enough, and I gladly avail myself of its convenience; 
yet I have remarked that what holds in particular, holds in 
general, that the plant Man does not require for his most 
glorious flowering this pomp of preparation and convenience, 
but the thoughts of some beggarly Homer who strolled, God 
knows when, in the infancy and barbarism of the old world; 
the gravity and sense of some slave Moses who leads away 
his fellow slaves from their masters; the contemplation of 
some Scythian Anacharsis; the erect formidable valor of 
some Dorian townsmen in the town of Sparta; the vigor of 
Clovis the Frank, and Alfred the Saxon, and Alaric the Goth, 
and Mahomet, Ali, and Omar the Arabians, Saladin the Curd, 
and Othman the Turk, sufficed to build what you call society, 
on the spot and in the instant when the sound mind in a 
sound body appeared. Rich and fine is your dress, O con- 
servatism! your horses are of the best blood; your roads are 
well cut and well paved; your pantry is full of meats and 
your cellar of wines, and a very good state and condition 
are you for gentlemen and ladies to live imder; but every 
one of these goods steals away a drop of my blood. I want 
the necessity of supplying my own wants. All this costly cul- 
ture of pours is not necessary. Greatness does not need it. 
Yonder peasant, who sits neglected there in a comer, carries 
a whole revolution of man and nature in his head, which 
shall be a sacred history to some future ages. For man is 
the end of nature; nothing so easily organizes itself in every 
part of the universe as he; no moss, no lichen is so easily 
bom; and he takes along with him and puts out from-himr 



THE CONSERVATIVE 337 

self the whole apparatus of society and condition extempore, 
as an army encamps in a desert, and where all was just 
now blowing sand, creates a white city in an hour, a govern- 
ment, a market, a place for feasting, for conversation, and 
for love. 

These considerations, urged by those whose characters and 
whose fortunes are yet to be formed, must needs command 
the sympathy of all reasonable persons. But beside that 
charity which should make all adult persons interested for 
the youth, and engage them to see that he has a free field 
and fair play on his entrance into hfe, we are bound to see 
that the society, of which we compose a part, does not 
permit the formation or continuance of views and practices 
injurious to the honor and welfare of mankind. The ob- 
jection to conservatism, when embodied in a party, is, that 
in its love of acts, it hates principles; it hves in the senses, 
not in truth; it sacrifices to despair; it goes for available- 
ness in its candidate, not for worth; and for expediency in its 
measures, and not for the right. Under pretence of allow- 
ing for friction, it makes so many additions and supplements 
to the machine of society, that it will play smoothly and 
softly, but will no longer grind any grist. 

The conservative party in the universe concedes that the 
radical would talk sufficiently to the purpose, if we were still 
in the garden of Eden; he legislates for man as he ought to 
be; his theory is right, but he makes no allowance for 
friction; and this omission makes his whole doctrine false. 
The idealist retorts, that the conservative falls into a far 
more noxious error in the other extreme. The conservative 
assumes sickness as a necessity, and his social frame is a 
hospital, his total legislation is for the present distress, a 
universe in sUppers and flannels, with bib and papspoon, 
swallowing pills and herb-tea. Sickness gets organized as 
well as health, the vice as well as the virtue. Now that a 
vicious system of trade has existed so long, it has stereo^ 
typed itself in the human generation, and misers are bom. 
And now that sickness has got such a foothold, leprosy has 
grown cimning, has got into the ballot-box, the lepers out' 
vote the clean; society has resolved itself into a Hospital 



338 THE CONSERVATIVE 

Committee, and all its laws are quarantine. If any man 
resist, and set up a foolish hope he has entertained as good 
against the general despair, society frowns on him, shuts 
him out of her opportunities, her granaries, her refectories, 
her water and bread, and will serve him a sexton's turn. 
Conservatism takes as low a view of every part of human 
action and passion. Its religion is just as bad; a lozenge for 
the sick; a dolorous tune to beguile the distemper; miti- 
gations of pain by pillows and anodynes; always mitigations, 
never remedies; pardons for sins, funeral honors, — ^never 
self-help, renovation, and virtue. Its social and political 
action has no better aim; to keep out wind and weather, to 
bring the day and year about, and make the world last our 
day; not to sit on the world and steer it; not to sink the 
memory of the past in the glory of a new and more excel- 
lent creation; a timid cobbler and patcher, it degrades what- 
ever it touches. The cause of education is urged in this 
country with the utmost earnestness, — on what ground? 
why on this, that the people have the power, and if they are 
not instructed to sjmipathize with the intelligent, reading, 
trading, and governing class, inspired with a taste for the 
same competitions and prizes, they will upset the fair 
pageant of Judicature, and perhaps lay a hand on the sacred 
mimiments of wealth itself, and new distribute the land. 
Religion is taught in the same spirit. The contractors who 
were building a road out of Baltimore, some years ago, 
foimd the Irish laborers quarrelsome and refractory, to 
a degree that embarrassed the agents, and seriously inter- 
rupted the progress of the work. The corporation were 
advised to call off the police, and build a CathoUc chapel; 
which they did; the priest presently restored order, and the 
work went on prosperously. Such hints, be sure, are too 
valuable to be lost. If you do not value the Sabbath, or 
other religious institutions, give yourself no concern about 
maintaining them. They have already acquired a market 
value as conservators of property; and if priest and church- 
member should fail, the chambers of commerce and the 
presidents of the Banks, the very innholders and landlords 
of the coimtry would muster with fury to their support. 



THE CONSERVATIVE 339 

Of course^ religion in such hands loses its essence. Instead 
of that rehance, which the soul suggests on the eternity of 
truth and duty, men are misled into a reliance on institutions, 
which, the moment they cease to be the instantaneous 
creations of the devout sentiment, are worthless. Rehgion 
among the low becomes low. As it loses its truth, it loses 
credit with the sagacious. They detect the falsehood of 
the preaching, but when they say so, all good citizens cry, 
Hush; do not weaken the state, do not take off the strait- 
jacket from dangerous persons. Every honest fellow must 
keep up the hoax the best he can; must patronize providence 
and piety, and wherever he sees anything that will keep 
men amused, school or churches or poetry, or picture- 
galleries or music, or what not, he must cry "Hist-a-boy," 
and urge the game on. What a compliment we pay to the 
good Spirit with our superserviceable zeal! 

But not to balance reasons for and against the establish- 
ment any longer, and if it still be asked in this necessity of 
partial organization, which party on the whole has the Mgh- 
est claims on our sympathy? I bring it home to the private 
heart, where all such questions must have their final ar- 
bitrament. How wiU every strong and generous mind choose 
its ground, — with the defenders of the old? or with the 
seekers of the new? Which is that state which promises to 
edify a great, brave, and beneficent man; to throw him on his 
resources, and tax the strength of his character? On which 
part will each of us find himself in the hour of health and 
of aspiration? 

I understand well the respect of mankind for war, because 
that breaks up the Chinese stagnation of Society, and dem- 
onstrates the personal merits of all men. A state of war 
or anarchy, in which law has little force, so far as valuable 
that it puts every man on trial. The man of principle is 
known as such, and even in the fury of faction is respected. 
In the civil wars of France, Montaigne alone, among all the 
Frfehch gentry, kept his castle gates imbarred, and made his 
personal integrity as good at least as a regiment. The man 
of courage and resources is shown, and the effeminate and 
base person. Those who rise above war, and thosQ who 



340 THE CONSERVATIVE 

fall below it, it easily discriminates, as well as those, who, 
accepting its rude conditions, keep their own head by their 
own sword. 

But in peace and a commercial state we depend, not as 
we ought, on our knowledge and all men's knowledge that 
we are honest men, but we cowardly lean on the virtue of 
others. For it is always at last the virtue of some men in 
the society, which keeps the law in any reverence and 
power. Is there not something shameful tiiat I should owe 
my peaceful occupancy of my house and field, not to the 
knowledge of my countrymen that I am useful, but to their 
respect for sundry other reputable persons, I know not 
whom, whose joint virtues still keep the law in good order? 

It will never make any difference to a hero what the laws 
are. His greatness will shine and accomplish itself imto 
the end, whether they second him or not. If he have earned 
his bread by drudgery, and in the narrow and crooked ways 
which were all an evil law had left him, he will make it at 
least honorable by his expenditure. Of the past: he will take 
no heed; for its wrongs he will not hold himself responsible: 
he will say, all the meanness of my progenitors shall not 
bereave me of the power to make this hour and company 
fair and fortunate. Whatsoever streams of power and com- 
modity flow to me, shall of me acquire healing virtue, and be- 
come fountains of safety. Cannot I too descend a Redeemer 
into nature? Whosoever hereafter shall name my name, 
shall not record a malefactor, but a benefactor in the earth. 
If there be power in good intention, in fidelity, and in 
toil, the north wind shall be purer, the stars in heaven shall 
glow with a kindlier beam, that I have lived. I am primarily 
engaged to myself to be a pubUc servant of all the gods, to 
demonstrate to all men that there is intelligence and good 
will at the heart of things, and ever higher and yet higher 
leadings. These are my engagements; how can your law 
further or hinder me in what I shall do to men? On the 
other hand, these dispositions establish their relations to 
me. Wherever there is worth, I shall be greeted. Wher- 
ever there are men, are the objects of my study and love. 
Sooner or later all men will be my friends, and will testify 



THE CONSERVATIVE 341 

in all methods the energy of their regard. I cannot thank 
your law for my protection. I protect it. It is not in its 
power to protect me. It is my business to make myself 
revered. I depend on my honor, my labor, and my dis- 
positions, for my place in the affections of mankind, and not 
on any conventions or parchments of yours. 

But if I allow myself in derelictions, and become idle and 
dissolute, I quickly come to love the protection of a strong 
law, because I feel no title in myself to my advantages. To 
the intemperate and covetous person no love flows; to him 
mankind would pay no rent, no dividend, if force were once 
relaxed; nay, if they could give their verdict, they would 
say, that his self-indulgence and his oppression deserved 
punishment from society, and not that rich board and lodging 
he now enjoys. The law acts as a screen of his imworthiness, 
and makes him worse the longer it protects him. 

In conclusion, to return from this alternation of partial 
views, to the high platform of universal and necessary his- 
tory, it is a happiness for mankind that innovation has got 
on so far, and has so free a field before it. The boldness of 
the hope men entertain transcends all former experience. 
It calms and cheers them with the picture of a simple and 
equal life of truth and piety. And this hope flowered 
on what tree? It was not imported from the stock of some 
celestial plant, but grew here on the wild crab of con- 
servatism. It is much that this old and vituperated system 
of things has borne so fair a child. It predicts that amidst 
a planet peopled with conservatives, one Reformer may yet 
be born. 



xvni 

THE TRANSCENDENTALIST 

A Lecture read at the Masonic Temple, Boston, 

January, 1842 

The first thing we have to say respecting what are called 
new views here in New England, at the present time, is, 
that they are not new, but the very oldest of thoughts cast 
into the mould of these new times. The light is always 
identical in its composition, but it falls on a great variety 
of objects, and by so falling is first revealed to us, not in 
its own form, for it is formless, but in theirs; in like manner, 
thought only appears in the objects it classifies. What is 
popularly called Transcendentalism among us, is Idealism; 

/ Idealism as it appears in 1842. As thinkers, mankind have 
ever divided into two sects. Materialists and Idealists; the 
first class founding on exx)erience, the second on conscious- 
ness; the first class beginning to think from the data of the 
senses, the second class perceive that the senses are not final, 

^ and say, the senses give us representations of things, but 
what are the things themselves, they cannot tell. The 
materialist insists on facts, on history, on the force of 
circumstances, and the animal wants of man; the idealist 
on the power of Thought and of Will, on inspiration, on 
miracle, on individual culture. These two modes of thinldng 
are both natural, but the idealist contends that his way of 
thinking is in hi^er nature. He concedes all that the other 
affirms, admits the impressions of sense, admits their co- 
herency, their use and beauty, and then asks the materialist 
for his grounds of assurance, that things are as his senses 
represent them. But I, he says, affirm facts not affected 
by the illusions of sense, facts which are of the same nature 
as the faculty which reports them, and not liable to doubt; 

842 



THE TRANSCENDENTALIST 343 

facts which in their first appearance to ns assume a native 
superiority to material facts, degrading these into a 
language by which the first are to be spoken; facts which 
it only needs a retirement from the senses to discern. Every 
materialist will be an idealist; but an idealist can never go 
backward and be a materialist. 

The idealist, in speaking of events, sees them as spirits. 
He does not deny the sensuous fact: by no means; but he 
will not see that alone. He does not deny the presence of 
this table, this chair, and the walls of this room, but he 
looks at these things as the reverse side of the tapestry, 
as the other end, each being a sequel or completion of a 
spiritual fact which nearly concerns him. This manner of 
looking at things, transfers every object in nature from an 
independent and anomalous position without there, into 
the consciousness. Even the materialist Condillac, perhaps 
the most logical expounder of materialism^ was constrained 
to say, "Though we should soar into the heavens, though 
we should sink into the abyss, we never go out of ourselves; 
it is always our own thought that we perceive." What 
more could an idealist say? 

The materialist, secure in the certainty of sensation, 
mocks at fine-spun theories, at star-gazers and dreamers, 
and believes that his life is solid, that he at least takes noth- 
ing for granted, but knows where he stands, and what he 
does. Yet how easy it is to show him, that he also is a 
phantom walking and working amid phantoms, and that he 
need only ask a question or two beyond his daily questions, 
to find his solid universe growing dim and impalpable before 
his sense. The sturdy capitalist, no matter how deep and 
square on blocks of Quincy granite he lays the founda- 
tions of his banking-house or Exchange, must set it, at last, 
not on a cube corresponding to the angles of his structure, 
but on a mass of unknown materials and solidity, red-hot or 
white-hot, perhaps, at the core, which rounds off to an 
almost perfect sphericity, and lies floating in soft air, and 
goes spinning away, dragging bank and banker with it at a 
rate of thousands of miles the hour, he knows not whither, — 
a bit of bullet, now glimmering, now darkling through a, 



344 THE TRANSCENDENTALIST 

small cubic space on the edge of an unimaginable pit of 
emptiness. And this wild balloon, in which his whole venture 
is embarked, is a just symbol of his whole state and faculty. 
One thing, at least, he says is certain, and does not give me 
the headache, that figures do not He; the multipHcation table 
has been hitherto found unimpeachable truth; and moreover, 
if I put a gold eagle in my safe, I find it again to-morrow; — 
but for these thoughts, I know not whence they are. They 
change and pass away. But ask him why he believes that 
an uniform experience will continue uniform, or on what 
grounds he founds his faith in his figures, and he will perceive 
that his mental fabric is built up on just as strange and 
quaking foundations as his proud edifice of stone. 

In the order of thought, the materialist takes his de- 
parture from the external world, and esteems a man as one 
product of that. The idealist takes his departure from his 
consciousness, and reckons the world an appearance. The 
materialist respects sensible masses, Society, Government, 
social art, and luxury, every establishment, every mass, 
whether majority of nmnbers, or extent of space, or amount 
of objects, every social action. The idealist has another 
measure, which is metaph3rsical, namely, the rank which 
things themselves take in his consciousness; not at all, the 
size or appearance. Mind is the only reality, of which man 
and all other natures are better or worse reflectors. Nature, 
literature, history, are only subjective phenomena. Al- 
though in his action overpowered by the laws of action, and 
so, warmly cooperating with men, even preferring them to 
himself, yet when he speaks scientifically, or after the order 
of thought, he is constrained to degrade persons into rep- 
resentatives of truths. He does not respect labor, or the 
products of labor, namely, property, otherwise than as a 
manifold symbol, illustrating with wonderful fidelity of 
details the laws of being; he does not respect government, 
except as far as it reiterates the law of his mind; nor the 
church; nor charities; nor arts, for themselves; but hears, 
as at a vast distance, what they say, as if his consciousness 
would speak to him through a pantomimic scene. His 
thought, — that is the Universe. His experience injUnes him 



THE TRANSCENDENTAUST 345 

to behold the procession of facts you call the world, as 
flowing peri)etually outward from an invisible, unsounded 
center in himself, center alike of him and of them, and 
necessitating him to regard all things as having a subjective 
or relative existence, relative to that aforesaid Unknown 
Center of him. 

From this transfer of the world into the consciousness, 
this beholding of all things in the mind, follow easily his 
whole ethics. It is simpler to be self-dependent. The 
height, the deity of man is, to be self-sustained, to need no 
gift, no foreign force. Society is good when it does not 
violate me; but best when it is likest to solitude. Every- 
thing real is self-existent. Everything divine shares the self- 
existence of Deity. All that you call the world is the shadow 
of that substance which you are, the perpetual creation of 
the powers of thought, of those that are dependent and of 
those that are independent of your will. Do not cumber 
yourself with fruitless pains to mend and remedy remote 
effects; let the soul be erect, and all things will go well. 
You think me the child of my circumstances; I make my 
circumstance. Let any thought or motive of mine be dif- 
ferent from that they are, the difference will transform my 
condition and economy. I — ^this thought which is called I, — 
is the mould into which the world is poured like melted wax. 
The mould is invisible, but the world betrays the shape of 
the mould. You call it the power of circumstance, but it 
is the power of me. Am I in harmony with myself? my po- 
sition will seem to you just and commanding. Am I vicious 
and insane? my fortunes will seem to you obscure and de- 
scending. As I am, so shall I associate, and so shall I act; 
Caesar's history will paint out Csesar. Jesus acted so, 
because he thought so. I do not wish to overlook 
or to gainsay any reality; I say, I make my circumstance: 
but if you ask me. Whence am I? I feel like other men my 
relation to that Fact which cannot be spoken, or defined, 
nor even thought, but which exists, and will exist. 

The Transcendentalist adopts the whole connection of 
spiritual doctrine. He believes in miracle, in the perpetual 
openness of the human mind to new influx of light and 



846 THE TRANSCENDENTALIST 

power; he believes in inspiration, and in ecstasy. He 
wishes that the spiritual principle should be suffered to 
demonstrate itself to the end, in all possible applications to 
the state of man, without the admission of anything un- 
spiritual; that is, anything positive, dogmatic, personal. 
Thus, the spiritual measure of inspiration is the depth of 
the thought, and never, who said it? And so he resists all 
attempts to palm other rules and measures on the spirit 
than its own. 

In action, he easily incurs the charge of antinomianism 
by his avowal th^-t he, who has the Lawgiver, may with 
safety not only neglect, but even contravene every written 
commandment. In the play of Othello, the expiring Des- 
demona absolves her husband of the murder, to her attend- 
ant Emilia. Afterwards, when Emilia charges him with 
the crime, Othello exclaims, 

"You heard her say herself it was not I.". 
Emilia replies, 

"The more angel she, and thou the blacker deviL" 

Of this fjie incident, Jacobi, the Transcendental moralist, 
makes use, with other parallel instances, in his reply to 
Fichte. Jacobi, refusing all measure of right and wrong 
except the determinations of the private spirit, remarks 
that there is no crime but has sometimes been a virtue. 
"I," he says, "am that atheist, that godless person who, in 
opposition to an imaginary doctrine of calculation, would 
lie as the dying Desdemona lied; would lie and deceive, 
as Pylades when he personated Orestes; would assassinate 
like Timoleon; would perjure myself like Epaminondas, 
and John de Witt; I would resolve on suicide like Cato; I 
would conmiit sacrilege with David; yea, and pluck ears of 
com on the Sabbath, for no other reason than that I was 
fainting for lack of food. For, I have assurance in myself, 
that, in pardoning these faults according to the letter, man 
exerts the sovereign right which the majesty of his being 
confers on him; he sets the seal of his divine nature to the 
grace he accords."^ 

ColendgQ's Translatioiju 



THE TRANSCENDENf/^ST 347 

In like manner, if there is anytbiag grand and daring in 
human thought or virtue, any 4'eliance on the vast, the 
unknown; any presentiment, any extravagance of faith, 
the spirituahst adopts ii'<^ most in nature. The oriental 
mind has always tended '/> this largeness. Buddhism is an 
expression of it. The Buddliist who thanks no man, who 
says, "do not flatter your Kepefactors," but who, in his 
conviction that every good deed can by no possibility escape 
its reward, will not deceive the benefactor by pretending that 
he has done more than he should,^is a Transcendentalist. 

You will see by this sketch that t&ere is no such thing as a 
Transcendental party; that there is no pure Transcenden- 
talist; that we know of none but prophets and heralds of 
such a philosophy; that all who by strong bias of nature 
have leaned to the spiritual side in doctrine, have stopped 
short of their goal. We have had many harbingers and 
forerunners; but of a purely spiritual life, history has af- 
forded no example. I mean, we have yet no man who has 
leaned entirely on his character, and eaten angel's food, 
who, trusting to his sentiments, found hfe made of miracles; 
who, working for universal aims, found himself fed, he knew 
not how: clothed, sheltered, and weaponed, he knew not how, 
and yet it was done by his own hands. Only in the instinct 
of the lower animals, we find the suggestion of the methods of 
it, and something higher than our imderstanding. The 
squirrel hoards nuts, and the bee gathers honey, without 
knowing what they do, and they are thus provided for with- 
out selfishness or disgrace. 

Shall we say, then, that Transcendentalism is the Saturna- 
lia or excess of Faith; the presentiment of a faith proper to 
man in his integrity, excessive only when his imperfect obe- 
dience hinders the satisfaction of his wish. Nature is 
transcendental, exists primarily, necessarily, ever works and 
advances, yet takes no thought for the morrow. Man owns 
the dignity of the life which throbs around him in chemistry, 
and tree, and animal, and in the involuntary functions of 
his own bo(fy; yet he is balked when he tries to fling himself 
into this enchanted circle, where all is done without deg- 
radation. Yet genius and virtue predict in man the same 



348 THF TRANSCENDENTALIST 



THF TRA 
>Tivate en>4g, 



i 



absence of private en^ and of condescension to circum- 
stances, united with every trait and talent of beauty and 
power. 

This way of thinking, falling^on Roman times, made 
Stoic philosophers; falling on ^potic times, made patriot 
Catos and Brutuses; falling on superstitious times, made 
prophets and apostles; on ^^opish times, made protestants 
and ascetic monks, preach^ts of Faith against the preachers 
of Works; on prelatical l^es, made Puritans and Quakers; 
and falling on UnitariiAn and conmiercial times, makes 
the peculiar shades of idealism which we know. 

It is well known to most of my audience, that the Idealism 
of the present day acquired the name of Transcendental, 
from the use of that term by Inmianuel Kant, of Konig- 
berg, who replied to the sceptical philosophy of Locke, 
which insisted that there was nothing in the intellect which 
was not previously in the experience of the senses, by show- 
ing that there was a very important class of ideas, or im- 
perative forms, which did not come by experience, but 
through which experience was acquired; that these were in- 
tuitions of the mind itself; and he denominated them Trans- 
cendental forms. The extraordinary profoundness and pre- 
cision of that man's thinking have given vogue to his nomen- 
clature, in Europe and America, to that extent, that what- 
ever belongs to the class of intuitive thought, is popularly 
called at the present day Transcendental. 

Although, as we have said, there is no pure Transcen- 
dentalist, yet the tendency to respect the intuitions, and 
to give them, at least in our creed, all authority over our 
experience, has deeply colored the conversation and poetry of 
the present day; and the history of genius and of religion in 
these times, though impure, and as yet not incarnated in 
any powerful individual, will be the history of this ten- 
dency. 

It is a sign of our times, conspicuous to the coarsest ob- 
server, that many intelligent and religious persons withdraw 
themselves from the common labors and competitions of 
the market and the caucus, and betake themselves to a 
certain solitary and critical way of living, from which no 



THE TRANSCENDENTI^T 349 

solid fruit has yet appeared to justify their separation. 
They hold themselves aloof; they feel the disproportion be- 
tween their faculties and the work offered them, and they 
prefer to ramble in the country and perish of ennui, to the 
degradation of such charities and such ambitions as the city 
can propose to them. They are striking work, and crying 
out for somewhat worthy to do I What they do, is done only 
because they are overpowered by the humanities that speak 
on all sides; and they consent to such labor as is open to 
them, though to their lofty dream, the writing of Iliads or 
Hamlets, or the building of cities or empires seems drudgery. 

Now every one must do after his kind, be he asp or angel, 
and these must. The question, which a wise man and a 
student of modem history will ask, is, what that kind is? 
And truly, as in ecclesiastical history we take so much pains 
to know what the Gnostics, what the Essenes, what the 
Manichees, and what the Reformers believed, it would not 
misbecome us to inquire nearer home, what these companions 
and contemporaries of ours think and do, at least so far as 
these thoughts and actions appear to be not accidental and 
personal, but common to many, and the inevitable flower of 
the Tree of Time. Our American Uterature arid spiritual 
history are, we confess, in the optative mood; but whoso 
knows these seething brains, these admirable radicals, these 
unsocial worshippers, these talkers who talk the sun and moon 
away, will believe that this heresy cannot pass away without 
leaving its mark. 

They are lonely; the spirit of their writing and conver- 
sation is lonely; they repel influences; they shun general 
society; they incline to shut themselves in their chamber in 
the house, to live in the country rather than in the town, 
and to And their tasks and amusements in solitude. Society, 
to be sure, does not like this very well; it saith, Whoso goes 
to walk alone, accuses the whole world; he declareth all to 
be unfit to be his companions; it is very uncivil, nay, in- 
sulting; Society will retaliate. Meantime, this retirement 
does not proceed from any whim on the part of these separa- 
tors; but if any one will take pains to talk with them, 
he will find that this part ii? chosen both from temperament 



350 THA^ transcendentalist 

and from principle; with some miwillingness, too, and as a 
choice of the less of two evils; for these persons are not by 
nature melancholy, sour, and unsocial, — they are not stockish 
or brute, — ^but joyous, susceptible, affectionate; they have 
even more than others a great wish to be loved. like the 
young Mozart, they are rather ready to cry ten times a day, 
"But are you sure you love me?" Nay, if they tell you their 
whole thought, they will own that love seems to them the 
last and highest gift of nature; that there are persons whom 
in their hearts they daily thank for existing, — persons 
whose faces are perhaps imknown to them, but whose fame 
and spirit have penetrated their solitude, — ^and for whose 
sake they wish to exist. To behold the beauty of another 
character, which inspires a new interest in our own; to 
behold the beauty lodged in a human being, with such 
vivacity of apprehension that I am instantly forced home to 
inquire if I am not deformity itself: to behold in another 
the expression of a love so high that it assures itself, — 
assures itself also to me against every possible casualty 
except my imworthiness; — ^these are degrees on the scale 
of human happiness, to which they have ascended; and it 
is a fidelity to this sentiment which has made conmion asso- 
ciation distasteful to them. They wish a just and even 
fellowship, or none. They cannot gossip with you, and they 
do not wish, as they are sincere and religious, to gratify 
any mere curiosity which you may entertain. Like fairies, 
they do not wish to be spoken of. Love me, they say, but 
do not ask who is my cousin and my uncle. If you do not 
need to hear my thought, because you can read it in my face 
and behavior, then I will tell it you from sunrise to simset. 
If you cannot divine it, you would not imderstand what I 
say. I will not molest myself for you. I do not wish to be 
profaned. 

And yet, it seems as if this loneliness, and not this love, 
would prevail in their circumstances, because of the extrav- 
agant demand they make on human nature. That, indeed, 
constitutes a new feature in their portrait, that they are the 
most exacting and extortionate critics. Their quarrel with 
every man they meet, is not with his kind, but with his 



THE TRANSCENDENTALIST 351 

degree. There is not enough of him, — ^that is the only fault. 
They prolong their privilege of childhood in this wise, of 
doing nothing, — but making immense demands on all the 
gladiators in the lists of action and fame. They make us 
feel the strange disappointment which overcasts every 
human youth. So many promising youths, and never a 
finished man ! The profound nature will have a savage rude- 
ness; the delicate one will be shallow, or the victim of 
sensibihty; the richly accomplished will have some capital 
absurdity; and so every piece has a crack. T is strange, 
but this masterpiece is a result of such an extreme delicacy, 
that the most imobserved flaw in the boy will neutralize the 
most aspiring genius, and spoil the work. Talk with a 
seaman of the hazards to life in his profession, and he will 
ask you, "Where are the old sailors? do you not see that 
all are young men?" And we, on this sea of human thought, 
in like manner inquire, Where are the old idealists? where are 
they who represented to the last generation that extravagant 
hope, which a few happy aspirants suggest to ours? In 
looking at the class of counsel, and power, and wealth, and 
at the matronage of the land, amidst all the prudence and all 
the triviality, one asks, Where are they who represented 
genius, virtue, the invisible and heavenly world, to these? 
Are they dead, — ^taken in early ripeness to the gods, — ^as an- 
cient wisdom foretold their fate, Or did the high idea die 
out of them, and leave their unperfumed body as its tomb 
and tablet, annoimcing to all that the celestial inhabitant, 
who once gave them beauty, had departed? Will it be 
better with the new generation? We easily predict a fair 
future to each new candidate who enters the lists, but we are 
frivolous and volatile, and by low aims and ill example do 
what we can to defeat this hope. Then these youths bring 
us a rough but effectual aid. By their unconcealed dis- 
satisfaction, they expose our poverty, and the insignificance 
of man to man. A man is a poor limitary benefactor. 
He ought to be a shower of benefits — a great influence, which 
should never let his brother go, but should refresh old 
merits continually with new ones; so that, though absent, he 
should never be out of my mind, his name never far 



352 THE TRANSCENDENTALIST 

from my lips; but if the earth should open at my side, or 
my last hour were come, his name should be the prayer I 
should utter to the Universe. But in our experience, man 
is cheap, and friendship wants its deep sense. We affect to 
dwell with our friends in their absence, but we do not; when* 
deed, word, or letter comes not, they let us go. These ex- 
acting children advertise us of our wants. There is no 
compliment, no smooth speech with them; they pay you 
only this one compliment, of insatiable expectation; they 
aspire, they severely exact, and if they only stand fast in 
this watch-tower, and persist in demanding imto the end, 
and without end, then are they terrible friends, whereof 
poet and priest cannot choose but stand in awe; and what if 
they eat clouds, and drink wind, they have not been without 
service to the race of man. 

With this passion for what is great and extraordinary, it 
cannot be wondered at, that they are repelled by vulgarity 
and frivolity in people. They say to themselves, It is better 
to be alone than in bad company. And it is really a wish 
to be met, — ^the wish to find society for their hope and re- 
ligion, — which prompts them to shim what is called society. 
They feel that they are never so fit for friendship, as when 
they have quitted mankind, and taken themselves to friend. 
A picture, a book, a favorite spot in the hills or the woods, 
which they can people with the fair and worthy creation of 
the fancy, can give them often forms so vivid, that these for 
the time shall seem real, and society the illusion. 

But their solitary and fastidious manners not only with- 
draw them from the conversation, but from the labors of 
the world; they are not good citizens, not good members of 
society; unwillingly they bear their part of the public and 
private burdens; they do not willingly share in the public 
charities, in the public religious rites, in the enterprises of 
education, of missions foreign or domestic, in the abolition 
of the slave-trade, or in the temperance society. They do 
not even like to vote. The philanthropists inquire whether 
Transcendentalism does not mean sloth: they had as lief 
hear that their friend is dead, as that he is a' Transcendental- 
ist; for then is he paralyzed, and can never do anything for 



THE TRANSCENDENTALIST 353 

humanity. What right, cries the good worid, has the man of 
genius to retreat from work, and indulge himself? The 
popular literary creed seems to be, "1 am a sublime genius; 
I ought not therefore to labor." But genius is the power to 
'labor better and more availably. Deserve thy genius; exalt it. 
The good, the illuminated, sit apart from the rest, censuring 
their dullness and vices, as if they thought that, by sitting 
very grand in their chairs, the very brokers, attorneys, and 
congressmen would see the error of their ways, and flock 
to them. But the good and wise must learn to act, and carry 
salvation to the combatants and demagogues in the dusty 
arena below. 

On the part of these children, it is replied, that life and 
their faculty seem to them gifts too rich to be squandered 
on such trifles as you propose to them. What you call your 
fundamental institutions, your great and holy causes, seem 
to them great abuses, and, when nearly seen, paltry matters. 
Each "Cause," as it is called, — say Abolition, Temperance, 
say Calvinism, or Unitarianism, — ^becomes speedily a little 
shop, where the article, let it have been at first never so 
subtle and ethereal, is now made up into portable and con- 
venient cakes, and retailed in small quantities to suit pur- 
chasers. You make very free use of these words, "great" 
and "holy" but few tWngs appear to them such. Few 
persons have any magnificence of nature to inspire en- 
thusiasm, and the philanthropies and charities have a cer- 
tain air of quackery. As to the general course of living, 
and the daily emplojmients of men, they cannot see much 
virtue in these, since they are parts of this vicious circle; 
and as no great ends are answered by the men, there is 
nothing noble in the arts by which they are maintained. Nay, 
they have made the experiment, and found that, from the 
liberal professions to the coarsest manual labor, and from 
the courtesies of the academy and the college to the con- 
ventions of the cotillon-room and the morning call, there is 
a spirit of cowardly compromise and seeming, which in- 
timates a frightful skepticism, a life without love, and an 
activity without a i aim. 

Unless the action is necessary, unless it is adequate, 



354 THE TRANSCENDENTALIST 

I do not wish to perform it. I do not wish to do one thing 
but once. I do not love routine. Once possessed of the 
principle, it is equally easy to make four or forty thousand 
applications of it. A great man will be content to have 
indicated in any the slightest manner his perception of the 
reigning Idea of his time, and will leave to those who like it 
the multiplication of examples. When he has hit the white, 
the rest may shatter the target. Ever3rthing admonishes 
us how needlessly long Ufe is. Every moment of a hero so 
raises and cheers us, that a twelvemonth is an age. All that 
the brave Xanthus brings home from his wars, is the recol- 
lection that, at the storming of Samos, ''in the heat of the 
battle, Pericles smiled on me, and passed on to another 
detachment." It is the quality of the moment, not the 
number of days, of events, or of actors, that imports. 

New, we confess, and by no means happy, is our condition: 
if you want the aid of our labor, we ourselves stand in 
greater want of the labor. We are miserable with inaction. 
We perish of rest and rust: but we do not like your work. 

"Then," says the world, "show me your own." 

"We have none." 

"What will you do, then?" cries the world. 

"We wiU wait." 

"How long?" 

"Until the Universe rises up and calls us to work." 

"But whilst you wait, you grow old and useless."' 

"Be it so: I can sit in a comer and perish, (as you call 
it,) but I will not move until I have the highest command. 
If no call should come for years, for centuries, then I know 
that the want of the Universe is the attestation of faith by 
my abstinence. Your virtuous projects, so called, do not 
cheer me. I know that which shall come will cheer me. If 
I cannot work, at least I need not lie. All that is clearly 
due to-day is not to lie. In other places, other men have 
encountered sharp trials, and have behaved themselves well. 
The martyrs were sawn asunder, or hung alive on meat- 
hooks. Cannot we screw our courage to patience and truth, 
and without complaint, or even with good-himior, await 
our turn of action in the Infinite Counsels?" 






THE TRANSCENDENTAUST 365 

fiut> to come a little closer to the secret of these persons, 
we must say, that to them it seems a very easy matter to 
answer the objections of the man of the world, but not so 
easy to dispose of the doubts and objections that occur to 
themselves. They are exercised in their own spirit with 
queries, which acquaint them with all adversity, and with 
the trials of the bravest heroes. When I asked them con- 
cerning their private experienccy they answered somewhat in 
this wise: It is not to be denied that there must be some 
wide difference between my faith and other faith;, and mine 
is a certain brief experience, which surprised me in the 
highway or in the market, in some place, at some time, — 
whether in the body or out of the body, God knoweth, — 
and made me aware that I had played the fool with fools 
all this time, but that law existed for me and for all; that 
to me belong trust, a child's trust and obedience, and the 
worship of ideas, and I should never be fool more. Well 
in the space of an hour, probably, I was let down from this 
height; I was at my old tricks, the selfish member of a selfish 
society. My life is superficial, takes no root in the deep 
world; I ask, When shall I die, and be relieved of the re- 
sponsibility of seeing an Universe which I do not use? I 
wish to exchange this flash-of-lightning faith for continuous 
day-light, this fever-glow for a benign climate. 

These two states of thought diverge every moment, and 
stand in wild contrast. To him who looks at his life from 
these moments of illumination, it will seem that he skulks 
and plays a mean, shiftless, and subaltern part in the world. 
That is to be done which he has not skill to do, or to be 
said which others can say better, and he lies by, or occupies 
his hands with some plaything, until his hour comes again. 
Much of our reading, much of our labor, seems mere waiting: 
it was not that we were bom for. Any other could do it as 
well, or better. So little skill enters into these works, so 
little do they mix with the divine life, that it really signifies 
little what we do, whether we turn a grindstone, or ride, or 
run, or make fortunes, or govern the state. The worst 
feature of this double consciousness is, that the two lives, 
of the understanding and of the soul, which we lead, really 



366 THE TRANSCENDENTALIST 

show very little relation to each other, never meet and 
measure each other: one prevails now, all buzz and din, and 
the other prevails then, all infinitude and paradise; and, with 
the progress of life, the two discover no greater disposition 
to reconcile themselves. Yet, what is my faith? What am 
I? What but a thought of serenity and independence, an 
abode in the deep blue sky? Presently the clouds shut down 
again; yet we retain the belief that tlids petty web we weave 
will at last be overshot and reticulated with veins of the 
blue, and that the moments will characterize the days. 
Patience, then, is for us, is it not? Patience and still 
patience. When we pass, as presently we shall, into some 
new infinitude, out of this Iceland of negations, it will 
please us to reflect that, though we had few virtues or 
consolations, we bore with our indigence, nor once strove 
to repair it with hypocrisy or false heat of any kind. 

But this class are not sufficiently characterized, if we omit 
to add that they are lovers and worshipers of Beauty. In 
the eternal trinity of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, each in 
its perf ecttipn includilng the three, they prefer to make Beauty 
the sign and head. Something of tiie same taste is obser- 
vable in all the moral movements of the time, in the re- 
ligious and benevolent enterprises. They have a liberal, even 
an sesthetic spirit. A reference to Beauty in action sounds, 
to be sure, a little hollow and ridiculous in the ears of the 
old church. In politics, it has often sufficed, when they 
treated of justice, if they kept the bounds of selfish calcula- 
tion. If they granted restitution, it was prudence which 
granted it. But the justice which is now claimed for the 
black, and the pauper, and the drunkard is for Beauty, — 
is for a necessity to the soul of the agent, not of the bene- 
ficiary. I say, this is the tendency, not yet the realization. 
Our virtue totters and trips, does not yet walk firmly. Its 
representatives are austere; they preach and denounce; their 
rectitude is not yet a grace. They are still liable to that 
slight taint of burlesque which, in our strange world, attaches 
to the zealot. A saint should be as dear as the apple of the 
eye. Yet we are tempted to smile, and we flee from the 
working to the speculative reformer, to escape that same 



THE TRANSCENDENTAUST 357 

slight ridicule. Alas for these days of derision and criticism! 
We call the Beautiful the highest, because it appears to 
us the golden mean, escaping the dowdiness of the good, and 
the heartlessness of the true. — ^They are lovers of nature 
also, and find an indenmity in the inviolable order of the 
world for the violated order and grace of man. 

There is, no doubt, a great deal of well-founded objection 
to be spoken or felt against the sayings and doings of this 
class, some of whose traits we have selected; no doubt, they 
will lay themselves ox)en to criticism and to lampoons, and 
as ridiculous stories will be to be told of them as of any. 
There will be cant and pretension; there will be subtilty and 
moonshine. These x)ersons are of unequal strength, and do 
not all prosper. They complain that everything around 
them must be denied; and if feeble, it takes all their strength 
to deny, before they can begili to lead their own life. Grave 
seniors insist on their respect to this institution, and that 
usage; to an obsolete history; to some vocation, or college, 
or etiquette, or beneficiary, or charity, or morning or even- 
ing call, which they resist, as what does not concern them. 
But it costs such sleepless nights, alienations and misgivings, 
— they have so many moods about it; — ^these old guardians 
never change their minds; they have but one mood on their 
subject, namely, that Antony is very perverse, — ^that it is 
quite as much as Antony can do^ to assert his rights, abstain 
from what he thinks foolish, and keep his temper. He can 
not help the reaction of this injustice in his own mind. He 
is braced-up and stilted; all freedom and flowing genius, 
all sallies of wit and frolic nature are quite out of the ques- 
tion; it is well if he can keep from lying, injustice, and 
suicide. This is no time for gayety and grace. His strength 
and spirits are wasted in rejection. But the strong spirits 
overpower those around them without effort. Their 
thought and emotion comes in like a flood, quite withdraws 
them from all notice of these carping critics; they surrender 
themselves with glad heart to the heavenly guide, and only 
by implication reject the clamorous nonsense of the hour. 
Grave serious talk to the deaf,— church and old book 
mumble and ritualize to an unheeding, preoccupied and 



358 THE TRANSCENDENTALIST 

advancing mind, and thus they by happiness of greater 
momentum lose no time, but take the right road at first. 

But all these of whom I speak are not proficients; they 
are novices; they only show the road in which man should 
travel, when the soul has greater health and prowess. Yet 
let them feel the dignity of their charge, and deserve a 
larger power. Their heart is the ark in which the fire is 
concealed, which shall bum in a broader and universal flame. 
Let them obey the Genius then most when his impulse is 
wildest; then most when he seems to lead to iminhabitable 
deserts of thought and life; for the path which the hero 
travels alone is the highway of health and benefit to man- 
kind. What is the privilege and nobility of our nature, but 
its persistency, through its power to attach itself to what 
is permanent? 

Society also has its duties in reference to this class, and 
must behold them with what charity it can. Possibly 
some benefit may yet accrue from them to the state. In 
our Mechanics' Fair, there must be not only bridges, ploughs, 
carpenter's planes, and baking troughs, but also some few 
finer mstruments,— raingauges, thermometers, and tele- 
scopes; and in society, besides farmers, sailors, and weavers, 
there must be a few persons of purer fire kept specially as 
gauges and meters of character; persons of a fine, detecting 
instinct, who betray the smallest accimiulations of wit and 
feeling in the bystander. Perhaps too there might be room 
for the exciters and monitors; collectors of the heavenly 
spark with power to convey the electricity to others. Or, 
as the storm-tossed vessel at sea speaks the frigate or 'line 
packet" to learn its longitude, so it may not be without its 
advantage that we should now and then encoimter rare and 
gifted men, to compare the points of our spiritual compass, 
and verify our bearings from superior chronometers. 

Amidst the downward tendency and proneness of things, 
when every voice is raised for a new road or another statute, 
or a subscription of stock, for an improvement in dress, or in 
dentistry, for a new house or a larger business, for a political 
party, or the division of an estate, — ^will you not tolerate one 
or two solitary voices in the land, speaking for thoughts 



THE TRANSCENDENTALIST 359 

and principles not marketable or perishable? Soon these 
improvements and mechanical inventions will be superseded; 
these modes of living lost out of memory; these cities rotted, 
ruined by war, by new inventions, by new seats of trade, or 
the geologic changes: — all gone, like the shells which sprinkle 
the sea-beach with a white colony to-day, forever renewed to 
be forever destroyed. But the thoughts which these few 
hermits strove to proclaim by silence, as well as by speech, 
not only by what they did, but by what they forbore to do, 
shall abide in beauty and strength to reorganize themselves 
in nature, to invest themselves anew in other, perhaps 
higher endowed and happier mixed clay than ours, in fuller 
union with the surrounding system. 



XIX 

MONTAIGNE; OR, THE SKEPTIC 

Every fact is related on one side to sensation, and, on the 
other, to morals. The game of thought is, on the appearance 
of one of these two sides, to find the other; given the upper, 
to find the under side. Nothing so thin, but has these two 
faces; and, when the observer has seen the obverse, he turns 
it over to see the reverse. 

Life is a pitching of this penny, — ^heads or tails. We 
never tire of this game, ^because there is still a slight shudder 
of astonishment at the exhibition of the other face, at the 
contrast of the two faces. A man is flushed with success, 
and bethinks himself what this good luck signifies. He 
drives his bargain in the street; but it occurs, that he also 
is bought and sold. He sees the beauty of a human face, 
and searches the cause of that beauty, which must be more 
beautiful. He builds his fortunes, maintains the laws, 
cherishes his children; but he asks himself, why? and where- 
to? This head and this tail are called, in the language of 
philosophy. Infinite and Finite; Relative and Absolute; 
Apparent and Real; and many fine names beside. 

Each man is bom with a predisposition to one or the 
other of these sides of nature; and it will easily happen that 
men will be found devoted to one or the other. One class 
has the perception of difference, and is conversant with facts 
and surfaces; cities and persons; and the bringing certain 
things to pass; — ^the men of talent and action. Another 
class have the perception of identity, and are men of faith 
and philosophy, men of genius. 

Each of these riders drives too fast. Plotinus believes 
only in philosophers; Fenelon, in saints; Pindar and Byron, 
in poets. Read the haughty language in which Plato and the 

860 



MONTAIGNE: OR, THE SKEFHC 361 

Flatonists speak of all men who are not devoted to their 
own shining abstractions: other men are rats and mice. The 
literary class is usually proud and exclusive. The corre- 
spondence of Pope and Swift describes mankind around them 
as monsters; and that of Goethe and Schiller, in our own 
time, is scarcely more kind. 

It is easy to see how this arrogance comes. The genius 
is a genius by the first look he casts on any object. Is his 
eye creative? Does he not rest in angles and colors, but 
beholds the design, — ^he will presently imdervalue the actual 
object. In powerful moments, his thought has dissolved 
the works of art and nature into their causes, so that the 
works appear heavy and faulty. He has a conception of 
beauty which the sculptor cannot embody. Picture, statue, 
temple, railroad, steam-engine, existed first in an artist's 
mind, without flaw, mistake, or friction, which impair the 
executed models. So did the church, the state, college, court, 
social circle, and all the institutions. It is not strange that 
these men, remembering what they have seen and hoped of 
ideas, should affirm disdainfully the superiority of ideas. 
Having at some time seen that the happy soul will carry all 
the arts in power, they say, Why cimiber ourselves with 
superfluous realizations? and, like dreaming beggars, they 
assume to speak and act as if these values were already sub- 
stantiated. 

On the other part, the men of toil and trade and luxury, — 
the animal world, including the animal in the philosopher 
and poet also, — ^and the practical world, including the pain- 
ful drudgeries which are never excused to philosopher or 
poet any more than to the rest, — ^weigh heavily on the other 
side. The trade in our streets believes in no metaphysical 
causes, thinks nothing of the force which necessitated traders 
and a trading planet to exist: no, but sticks to cotton, 
sugar, wool, and salt. The ward meetings, on election days, 
are not softened by any misgiving of the value of these bal- 
lotings. Hot life is streaming in a single direction. To the 
men of this world, to the animal strength and spirits, to the 
men of practical power, whilst immersed in it, the man of 
ideas appears out of his reason. They alone have reason. 



362 MONTAIGNE: OR, THE SKEPTIC 

Things always bring their own philosophy with them, that 
is, prudence. No man acquires property without acquiring 
with it a Httle arithmetic, also. In England, the richest 
country that ever existed, property stands for more, com- 
pared with personal ability, than in any other. After din- 
ner, a man believes less, denies more: verities have lost some 
charm. After dinner, arithmetic is the only science: ideas 
are disturbing, incenchary, follies of young men, repudiated 
by the sohd portion of society: and a man comes to be 
valued by his athletic and animal qualities. Spence relates, 
that Mr. Pope was with Sir Godfrey Kiieller, one day, when 
his nephew, a Guinea trader, came in. "Nephew," said Sir 
Godfrey, "you have the honor of seeing the two greatest 
men in the world." "I don't know how great men you may 
be," said the Guinea man, "but I don't like your looks. I 
have often bought a man much better than both of you, all 
muscles and bones, for ten guineas." Thus, the men of the 
senses revenge themselvs on the professors, and repay scorn 
for scorn. The first had leaped to concluaons not yet ripe, 
and say more than is true; the others make themselves 
merry with the philosopher, and weigh man by the pound. — 
They believe that mustard bites the tongue, that pepi)er 
is hot, friction-matches are incendiary, revolvers to be 
avoided, and suspenders hold up pantaloons; that there is 
much sentiment in a chest of tea; and a man will be elo- 
quent, if you give him good wine. Are you tender and 
scrupulous, — you must eat more mince-pie. They hold that 
Luther had milk in him when he said, 

"Wer nicht liebt Wein, Weib, und Gesang 
Der bleibt ein Narr sein Leben lang;*' 

and when he advised a young scholar perplexed with 
fore-ordination and free-will, to get well drunk. "The 
nerves," says Cabanis, "they are the man." My neighbor, a 
jolly farmer, in the tavern bar-room, thinks that the use of 
money is sure and speedy spending. "For his part," he 
says, "he puts his down his neck, and gets the good of it." 

The inconvenience of this way of thinking is, that it nms 
into indifferentism and then into disgust. Life is eating us 



MONTAIGNE: OR, THE SKEPTIC 363 

up. We shall be fables presently. Keep cool: it will be 
all one a hundred years hence. Life's well enough; but we 
shall be glad to get out of it, and they will all be glad to have 
us. Why should we fret and drudge? Our meat will taste 
to-morrow as it did yesterday, and we may at last have had 
enough of it. "Ah," said my languid gentleman at Oxford, 
"there's nothing new or true, — and no matter." 

With a little more bitterness, the cynic moans: our Ufe is 
like an ass led to market by a bundle of hay being carried 
before him: he sees nothing but the bundle of hay. "There 
is so much trouble in coming into the world," said Lord 
Bolingbroke, "and so much more, as well as meanness, in 
going out oif it, that 'tis hardly worth while to be here at 
all." I knew a philosopher of this kidney, who was accus- 
tomed briefly to siun up his experience of human nature in 
saying, "Mankind is a damned rascal:" and the natural 
corollary is pretty sure to follow, — "The world lives by 
hiunbug, and so will I." 

The abstractionist and the materialist thus mutually 
exasperating each other, and the scoffer expressing the 
worst of materialism, there arises a third party to occupy 
the middle ground between these two, the skeptic, namely. 
He finds both wrong by being in extremes. He labors to 
plant his feet, to be the beam of the balance. He will not go 
beyond his card. He sees the one-sidedness of these men of 
the street; he will not be a Gibeonite; he stands for the in- 
tellectual faculties, a cool head, and whatever serves to keep 
it cool: no unadvised industry, no unrewarded self-devotion, 
no loss of the brains in toil. Am Ian ox, or a dray? — ^You are 
both in extremes, he says. You that will have all solid, and 
a world of pig-lead, deceive yourselves grossly. You believe 
yourselves rooted and grounded on adamant; and yet, if 
we uncover the last facts of our knowledge, you are spinning 
Hke bubbles in a river, you know not whither or whence, 
and you are bottomed and capped and wrapped in delusions. 

Neither will he be betrayed to a book, and wrapped in a 
gown. The studious class are their own victims: they are 
thin and pale, their feet are cold, their heads are hot, the 
night is without sleep, the day a fear of interruption, — 



364 MONTAIGNE: OR, THE SKEPTIC 

•pallor, squalor, hunger, and egotism. If you come near 
them, and see what conceits they entertain, — they are 
abstractionists, and spend their days and nights in dreaming 
some dreams ; in expecting the homage of society to some pre- 
cious scheme built on a truth, but destitute of proportion 
in its presentment, of justness in its apphcation, and of 
all energy of will in the schemer to embody and vitalize it. 

But I see plainly, he says, that I cannot see. I know 
that human strength is not in extremes, but in avoiding 
extremes. I, at least, will shun the weakness of philoso- 
phizing beyond my depth. What is the use of pretending 
to powers we have not? What is the use of pretending to 
assurances we have not, respecting the other Hfe? Why ex- 
aggerate the power of virtue? Why be an angel before your 
time? These strings, wound up too high, will snap. If 
there is a wish for inmiortaUty, and no evidence, why not 
say just that? If there are conflicting evidences, why not 
state them? If there is not ground for a candid thinker 
to make up his mind, yea or nay, — ^why not suspend the 
judgment? I weary of these dogmatizers. I tire of these 
hacks of routine, who deny the dogmas. I neither affirm 
nor deny. I stand here to try the case. I am here to con- 
sider, orKCTTTciv^to consider how it is. I will try to keep the 
balance true. Of what use to take the chair, and glibly 
rattle o£f theories of societies, religion, and nature, when I 
know that practical objections lie in the way, insurmountable 
by me and by my mates? Why so talkative in public, when 
each of my neighbors can pin me to my seat by arguments I 
cannot refute? Why pretend that life is so simple a game, 
when we know how subtle and elusive the Proteus is? Why 
think to shut up all things in your narrow coop, when we 
know there are not one or two only, but ten, twenty, a 
thousand things, and unlike? Why fancy that you have 
all the truth in your keeping? There is much to say on 
all sides. 

Who shall forbid a wise skepticism, seeing that there is 
no practical question on which any thing more than an 
approximate solution can be had? Is not marriage an open 
question, when it is alleged, from the beginning of the world, 



MONTAIGNE: OR, THE SKEPTIC 365 

that such as are in the institution wish to get out, and such 
as are out wish to get in? And the reply of Socrates, to 
him who asked whether he should choose a wife, still remains 
reasonable, "that, whether he should choose one or not, he 
would repent it." Is not the state a question? All so- 
ciety is divided in opinion on the subject of the state. No- 
body loves it; great nimibers dislike it, and suffer con- 
scientious scruples to allegiance: and the only defence set 
up, is, the fear of doing worse in disorganizing. Is it 
otherwise with the church? Or, to put any of the questions 
which touch mankind nearest, — shall the young man aim 
at a leading part in law, in politics, in trade? It will not be 
pretended that a success in either of these kinds is .quite 
coincident with what is best and inmost in his mind. Shall 
he, then, cutting the stays that hold him fast to the social 
state, put out to sea with no guidance but his genius ? There 
is much to say on both sides. Remember the open question 
between the present order of "competition," and the friends 
of "attractive and associated labor." The generous minds 
embrace the proposition of labor shared by all; it is the only 
honesty; nothing else is safe. It is from the poor man's 
hut alone, that strength and virtue come: and yet, on the 
other side, it is alleged that labor impairs the form, and 
breaks the spirit of man, and the laborers cry unanimously, 
"We have no thoughts." Culture, how indispensable! I 
cannot forgive you the want of accomplishment; and yet, 
culture will instantly destroy that chiefest beauty of spon- 
taneousness. Excellent is culture for a savage; but once let 
him read in the book, and he is no longer able not to 
think of Plutarch's heroes. In short, since true fortitude of 
understanding consists "in not letting what we know be 
embarrassed by what we do not know," we ought to secure 
those advantages which we can command, and not risk them 
by clutching after the airy and unattainable. Come, no 
chimeras! Let us go abroad, let us mix in affairs; let us 
learn, and get, and have, and climb. "Men are a sort of 
moving plantp, and, like trees, receive a great part of their 
nourishment from the air. If they keep too much at home, 
they pine." Let us have a robust, manly life, let us know 



366 MONTAIGNE: OR, THE SKEPTIC 

what we know, for certain; what we have, let it be solid, 
and seasonable, and our own. A world in the hand is .worth 
two in the bush. Let us have to do with real men and 
women, and not with skipping ghosts. 

This, then, is the right ground of the skeptic, — ^this of 
consideration, of self-containing; not at all of unbelief; not 
at all of universal denying, nor of universal doubting, — 
doubting, even that he doubts; least of all, of scoffing and 
profligate jeering at all that is stable and good. These are 
no more his moods than are those of religion and phil- 
osophy. He is the considerer, the prudent, taking in sail, 
coimting stock, husbanding his means, believing that a man 
has too many enemies, than that he can afford to be his own; 
that we cannot give ourselves too many advantages, in this 
unequal conffict, with powers so vast and unweariable ranged 
on one side, and this little, conceited, vulnerable popinjay 
that a man is, bobbing up and down into every danger, on the 
other. It is a position taken up for better defence, as of 
more safety, and one that can be maintained; and it is one 
of more opportunity and range: as, when we build a house, 
the rule is, to set it not too high nor too low, under the wind, 
but out of the dirt. 

The philosophy we want is one of fluxions and mobility. 
The Spartan and Stoic schemes are too stark and stiff for 
our occasion. A theory of Saint John, and of non-resistance, 
seems, on the other hand, too thin and aerial. We want 
some coat woven of elastic steel, stout as the first, and 
limber as the second. We want a ship in these billows we 
inhabit. An angular, dogmatic house would be rent to chips 
and splinters, in this storm of many elements. No, it must 
be tight, and fit to the form of man, to live at all; as a 
shell is the architecture of a house founded on the sea. The 
soul of man must be the type of our scheme, just as the 
body of man is the type after which a dwelling-house is 
built. Adaptiveness is the peculiarity of human nature. We 
are golden averages, volitant stabilities, compensated or 
periodic errors, houses founded on the sea. The wise skeptic 
wishes to have a near view of the best game, and the chief 
players; what is best in the planet; art and nature, places 



MONTAIGNE: OR, THE SKEPTIC 367 

and events, but mainly men. Every thing that is excellent 
in mankind, — a form of grace, an arm of iron, lips of per- 
suasion, a brain of resources, every one skilful to play and 
win, — he will see and judge. 

The terms of admission to this spectacle, are, that he 
have a certain solid and intelligible way of living of his own; 
some method of answering the inevitable needs of human 
hfe; proof that he has played with skill and succejs; that 
he has evinced the temper, stoutness, and the range of quah- 
ties which, among his contemporaries and countrymen, en- 
title him to fellowship and trust. For, the secrets of life 
are not shown except to sympathy and likeness. Men do 
not confide themselves to boys, or coxcombs, or pedants, 
but to their peers. Some wise limitation, as the modem 
phrase is; some condition between the extremes, and having 
itself a positive quality; some stark and sufficient man, who 
is not salt or sugar, but sufficiently related to the world to 
do justice to Paris or London, and, at the same time, a 
vigorous and original thinker, whom cities can not overawe, 
but who uses them, — is the fit person to occupy this ground 
of speculation. 

These qualities meet in the character of Montaigne. And 
yet, since the personal regard which I entertain for Mon- 
taigne may be unduly great, I will, under the shield of this 
prince of egotists, offer, as an apology for electing him as the 
representative of skepticism, a word or two to explain how 
my love began and grew for this admirable gossip. 

A single odd volume of Cotton's translation of the Essays 
remained to me from my father's library, when a boy. It 
lay long neglected, until, after many years, when I was 
newly escaped from college, I read the book, and procured 
the remaining volumes. I remember the delight and wonder 
in which I lived with it. It seemed to me as if I had myself 
written the book, in some former life, so sincerely it spoke 
to my thought and experience. It happened, when in Paris, 
in 1833, that, in the cemetery of Pere la Chaise, I came to 
a tomb of Augustus CoUignon, who died in 1830, aged sixty- 
eight years, and who, said the monument, "lived to do right, 
and had formed himself to virtue on the Essays of Mon- 



368 MONTAIGNE: OR, THE SKEPTIC 

taigne." Some years later^ I became acquainted with an 
accomplished English poet, John Sterling; and, in prosecut- 
ing my correspondence, I found that, from a love of Mon- 
taigne, he had made a pilgrimage to his chateau, still stand- 
ing near Castellan, in Perigord, and, after two hundred and 
fifty years, had copied from the wails of his library the in- 
scriptions which Montaigne had written there. That Jour- 
nal of Mr. Sterling's, published in the Westminster Review, 
Mr. Hazlitt has reprinted in the Prolegomena to his edition 
of the Essays. I heard with pleasure that one of the newly- 
discovered autographs of William Shakspeare was in a copy 
of Florio's translation of Montaigne. It is the only book 
which we certainly know to have been in the poet's library. 
And, oddly enou^, the duplicate copy of Florio, which the 
British Museum purchased, with a view of protecting the 
Shakspeare autograph (as I was informed in the Museum), 
turned out to have the autograph of Ben Jonson in the fly- 
leaf. Leigh Hunt relates of Lord Byron, that Montaigne 
was the only great writer of past times whom he read with 
avowed satisfaction. Other coincidences, not needful to be 
mentioned here, concurred to make this old Gascon still 
new and immortal for me. 

In 1571, on the death of his father, Montaigne, then thirty- 
eight years old, retired from the practice of law, at Bordeaux, 
and settled himself on his estate. Though he had been a 
man of pleasure, and sometimes a courtier, his studious 
habits now grew on him, and he loved the compass, staid- 
ness, and independence, of the country gentleman's life. He 
took up his economy in good earnest, and made his farms 
yield the most. Downright and plain-dealing, and abhorring 
to be deceived or to deceive, he was esteemed in the country 
for his sense and probity. In the civil wars of the League, 
which converted every house into a fort, Montaigne kept 
his gates open, and his house without defence. All parties 
freely came and went, his courage and honor being imiver- 
sally esteemed. The neighboring lords and gentry brought 
jewels and papers to him for safe-keeping. Gibbon reckons, 
in these bigoted times, but two men of liberality in France,— 
Henry IV. and Montaigne. 



MONTAIGNE: OR, THE SKEPTIC 369 

Montaigne is the frankest and honestest of all writers. 
His French freedom runs into grossness; but he has antici- 
pated all censures by the bounty of his own confessions. In his 
times, books were written to one sex only, and almost all 
were written in Latin; so that, in a humorist, a certain 
nakedness of statement was permitted, which our manners, 
of a literature addressed equally to both sexes, do not allow. 
But, though a bibHcal plainness, coupled with a most un* 
canonical levity, may shut his pages to many sensitive 
readers, yet the offence is superficial. He parades it: he 
makes the most of it; nobody can think or say worse of 
him than he does. He pretends to most of the vices; and, 
if there be any virtue in him, he says, it got in by stealth. 
There is no man, in his opinion, who has not deserved 
hanging five or six times; and he pretends no exception in 
his own behalf. 'Tive or six as ridiculous stories," too, 
he says, "can be told of me, as of any man living." But, 
with all this really superfluous frankness, the opinion of an 
invincible probity grows into every reader's mind. 

"When I the most strictly and religiously confess myself, 
I find that the best virtue I have has in it some tincture of 
vice; and I am afraid that Plato, in his purest virtue (I, 
who am as sincere and perfect a lover of virtue of that stamp 
as any other whatever), if he had listened, and laid his ear 
close to himself, would have heard some jarring sound of 
human mixture; but faint and remote, and only to be per- 
ceived by himself." 

Here ia an impatience and fastidiousness at color or pre- 
tence of any kind. He has been in courts so long as to have 
conceived a furious disgust at appearances; he will indulge 
himself with a Httle cursing and swearing; he will talk with 
sailors and gypsies, use flash and street ballads: he has 
stayed in-doors till he is deadly sick: he will to the open air, 
though it rain bullets. He has seen too much of gentle- 
men of the long robe, until he wishes for cannibals; and is 
so nervous, by factitious Hfe, that he thinks, the more bar- 
barous man is, the better he is. He likes his saddle. You 
may read theology, and grammar, and metaphysics else- 
where. Whatever you get here, shall smack of the earth and 



370 MONTAIGNE: OR, THE SKEPTIC 

of real life, sweet, or smart, or stinging. He makes no 
hesitation to entertain you with the records of his disease; 
and his journey to Italy is quite full of that matter. He 
took and kept this position of equihbriiun. Over his name, 
he drew an emblematic pair of scales, and wrote Que seeds 
jet under it. As I look at his effigy opposite the title-page, 
I seem to hear him say, "You may play old Poz, if you will; 
you may rail and exaggerate, — ^I stand here for truth, and 
will not, for all the states, and churches, and revenues, and 
personal reputations of Europe, overstate the dry fact, as 
I see it; I will rather mumble and prose about what I cer- 
tainly know, — ^my house and bams; my father, my wife, 
and my tenants; my old lean bald pate; my knives and 
forks; what meats I eat, and what drinks I prefer; and a 
hundred straws just as ridiculous, — ^than I will write, with a 
fine crow-quill, a fine romance. I like gray days, and 
autumn and winter weather. I am gray and autmnnal my- 
self, and think an undress, and old shoes that do not pinch 
my feet, and old friends who do not constrain me, and plain 
topics where I do not need to strain myself and pump my 
brains, the most suitable. Our condition as men is risky 
and ticklish enough. One can not be sure of himself and 
his fortune an hour, but he may be whisked ofiF into some 
pitiable or ridiculous pHght. Why should I vapor and play 
the philosopher, instead of ballasting, the best I can, this 
dancing balloon? So, at least, I live within compass, keep 
myself ready for action, and can shoot the gulf, at last, 
with decency. If there be anything farcical in such a life, 
the blame is not mine: let it lie at fate's and nature's door." 

The Essays, therefore, are an entertaining soliloquy on 
every random topic that comes into his head; treating 
every thing without ceremony, yet with masculine sense. 
There have been men with deeper insight; but, one would 
say, never a man with such abundance of thoughts: he is 
never dull, never insincere, and has the genius to make the 
reader care for all that he cares for. 

The sincerity and marrow of the man reaches to his sen- 
tences. I know not any where the book that seems less 
written. It is the language of conversation transferred to 



MONTAIGNE: OR, THE SKEPTIC 371 

a book. Cut these words, and they would bleed: they are 
vascular and aUve. One has the same pleasure in it that 
we have in listening to the necessary speech of men about 
their work, when any unusual circumstance gives momentary 
importance to the dialogue. For blacksmiths and teamsters 
do not trip in their speech; it is a shower of bullets. It is 
Cambridge men who correct themselves, and begin again 
at every half sentence, and, moreover, will pun, and refine 
too much, and swerve from the matter to the ex- 
pression. Montaigne talks with shrewdness, knows the 
world, and books, and himself, and uses the positive degree : 
never shrieks, or protests, or prays: no weakness, no con- 
vulsion, no superlative; does not wish to jump out of his 
skin, or play any antics, or annihilate space or time; but is 
stout and soUd; tastes every moment of the day; likes 
pain, because it makes him feel himself, and realize things; 
as we pinch ourselves to know that we are awake. He keeps 
the plain; he rarely mounts or sinks; likes to feel solid 
ground, and the stones underneath. His writing has no 
enthusiasms, no aspiration; contented, self-respecting, and 
keeping the middle of the road. There is but one exception, 
— ^in his love for Socrates. In speaking of him, for once his 
cheek flushes, and his style rises to passion. 

Montaigne died of a quinsy, at the age of sixty, in 1592. 
When he came to die, he caused a mass to be celebrated in 
his chamber. At the age of thirty-three, he had been mar- 
ried. "But," he says, "might I have had my own will, I 
would not have married Wisdom herself, if she would have 
had me: but 'tis to much purpose to evade it, the conmion 
custom and use of life will have it so. Most of my actions 
are guided by example, not choice." In the hour of death 
he gave the same weight to custom. Que scais jet What 
do I know. 

This book of Montaigne the world has endorsed, by trans- 
lating it into all tongues, and printing seventy-five editions 
of it in Europe: and that, too, a circulation somewhat 
chosen, namely, among courtiers, soldiers, princes, men of 
the world, and men of wit and generosity. 

Shall we say that Montaigne has spoken wisely, and given 



372 MONTAIGNE: OR, THE SKEPTIC 

the right and penDanent expression of the human mind, on 
the conduct of life? 

We are natural believers. Truth, or the connection be- 
tween cause and effect, alone interests us. We are x)ersuaded 
that a thread runs through all things: all worlds are strung 
on it, afi beads: and men, and events, and hfe, come to us, 
only because of that thread: they pass and repass, only 
that we may know the direction and continuity of that line. 
A book or statement which goes to show that there is no line, 
but random and chaos, a calamity out of nothing, a pros- 
perity and no accoimt of it, a hero bom from a fool, a fool 
from a hero, — dispirits us. Seen or unseen, we beUeve the 
tie exists. Talent makes coimterfeit ties; genius finds the real 
ones. We hearken to the man of science^ because we antic- 
ipate the sequence in natural phenomena which he un- 
covers. We love whatever affirms, connects, preserves; and 
dislike what scatters or pulls down. One man appears 
whose nature is to all men's eyes conserving and construc- 
tive: his presence supposes a well-ordered society, agri- 
culture, trade, large institutions, and empire. If these did 
not exist, they would begin to exist through his endeavors. 
Therefore, he cheers and comforts men, who feel all this in 
him very readily. The nonconformist and the rebel say all 
manner of imanswerable things against the existing repub- 
lic, but discover to our sense no plan of house or state of their 
own. Therefore, though the town and state, and way of living, 
which our coimsellor contemplated, might be a very modest 
or musty prosperity, yet men rightly go for hun, and reject 
the reformer, so long as he comes only with axe and crowbar. 

But though we are natural conservers and causationists, 
and reject a sour, dumpish unbelief, the skeptical class, 
which Montaigne represents, have reason, and every man, 
at some time, belongs to it. Every superior mind will pass 
through this domain of equihbration, — ^I should rather say, 
will know how to avail hhnself of the checks and balances 
in nature, as a natural weapon against the exaggeration and 
formalism of bigots and blockheads. 

Skepticism is the attitude assiuned by the student in ze- 



MONTAIGNE: OR, THE SKEPTIC 373 

lation to the particulars which society adores, but which 
he sees to be reverend only in their tendency and spirit. 
The ground occupied by the skeptic is the vestibule of the 
temple. Society does not like to have any breath of ques- 
tion blown on the existing order. But the interrogation of 
custom at all points is an inevitable stage in the growth of 
every superior mind, and is the evidence of its perception of 
the flowing power which remains itself in all changes. 

The superior mind will find itself equally at odds with 
the evils of society, and with the projects that are offered 
to rebeve them. The wise skeptic is a bad citizen; no con- 
servative; he sees the selfishness of property, and the drow- 
siness of institutions. But neither is he fit to work with any 
democratic party that ever was constituted; for parties 
wish every one committed, and he penetrates the popular 
patriotism. His pohtics are those of the ''Soul's Errand" 
of Sir Walter Raleigh; or of Krishna, in the Bhagavat, 
"There is none who is worthy of my love or hatred;" while 
he sentences law, physic, divinity, commerce, and custom. 
He is a reformer: yet he is no better member of the philan- 
thropic association. It turns out that he is not the cham- 
pion of the operative, the pauper, the prisoner, the slave. 
It stands in his mind, that our life in this world is not of 
quite so easy interpretation as churches and school-books 
say. He does not wish to take ground against these benev- 
olences, to play the part of devil's attorney, and blazon 
every doubt and sneer that darkens the sun for him. But 
he says. There are doubts. 

I mean to use the occasion, and celebrate the calendar-day 
of our Saint Michel de Montaigne, by counting and de- 
scribing these doubts or negations. I wish to ferret them 
out of their holes, and sun them a little. We must do with 
them as the police do with old rogues, who are shown up 
to the public at the marshall's office. They will. never be 
so formidable, when once they have been identified and 
registered. But I mean honestly by them, — that justice shall 
be done to their terrors. I shall not take Sunday objections, 
made up on purpose to be put down. I shall take the worst 
I can find, whether I can dispose of them or thev of me. 



374 MONTAIGNE: OR, THE SKEPTIC 

I do not press the skepticism of the materialist. I 
know, the qiiadrui)ed opinion will not prevail. Tis of no 
importance what bats and oxen think. The first dangerous 
symptom I report, is, the levity of intellect; as if it were 
fatal to earnestness to know much. Knowledge is the know- 
ing that we can not know. The dull pray; the geniuses are 
Hght mockers. How respectable is earnestness on every 
platform! but intellect kills it. Nay, San Carlo, my subtle 
and admirable friend, one of the most penetrating of men, 
finds that all direct ascension, even of lofty piety, leads to 
this ghastly insight, and sends back the votary orphaned. 
My astonishing San Carlo thought the lawgivers and saints 
infected. They found the ark empty; saw, and would not 
tell; and tried to choke off their approaching followers, by 
saying, "Action, action, my dear fellows, is for you!" Bad 
as was to me this detection by San Carlo, this frost in July, 
this blow from a brick, there was still a worse, namely, the 
cloy or satiety of the saints. In the mount of vision, ere 
they have yet risen from their knees, they say, "We dis- 
cover that this our homage and beatitude is partial and 
deformed; we must fly for relief to the suspected and re- 
viled Intellect, to the Understanding, the Mephistopheles, 
to the gymnastics of talent." 

This is hobgoblin the first; and, though it has been the 
subject of much elegy, in our nineteenth century, from 
Byron, Goethe, and other poets of less fame, not to mention 
many distinguished private observers, — ^I confess it is not 
very affecting to my imagination; for it seems to concern 
the shattering of baby-houses and crockery-shops. What 
flutters the church of Rome, or of England, or of Geneva, 
or of Boston, may yet be very far from touching any prin- 
ciple of faith. I think that the intellect and moral senti- 
ment are unanimous; and that, though philosophy extir- 
pates bugbears, yet it supplies the natural checks of vice, 
and polarity to the soul. I think that the wiser a man is, 
the more stupendous he finds the natural and moral economy, 
and lifts himself to a more absolute reliance. 

There is the power of moods, each setting at nought all 
but its own tissue of facts and beliefs. There is the power 



MONTAIGNE: OR, THE SKEPTIC 375 

of complexions, obviously modifying the dispositions and 
sentiments. The beliefs and unbeUefs appear to be struc- 
tural; and, as soon as each man attains the poise and 
vivacity which allow the whole machinery to play, he will 
not need extreme examples, but will rapidly alternate all 
opinions in his own hfe. Our life is March weather, savage 
and serene in one hour. We go forth austere, dedicated, 
believing in the iron links of Destiny, and will not turn on 
our heel to save our Ufe: but a book, or a bust, or only the 
sound of a name, shoots a spark through the nerves, and 
we suddenly believe in will: my finger-ring shall be the seal 
of Solomon: fate is for imbeciles: all is possible to the re- 
solved mind. Presently, a new experience gives a new turn 
to bur thoughts: common sense resumes its tyranny: we 
say, "Well, the army, after all, is the gate to fame, manners, 
and poetry: and, look you, — on the whole, selfishness plants 
best, prunes best, makes the best commerce, and the best 
citizen." Are the opinions of a man on right and wrong, 
on fate and causation, at the mercy of a broken sleep or 
an indigestion? Is his belief in God and Duty no deeper 
than a stomach evidence? And what guaranty for the 
permanence of his opinions? I like not the French celerity, 
— a new church and state once a week. — This is the second 
negation; and I shall let it pass for what it will. As far as 
it asserts rotation of states of mind, I suppose it suggests 
its own remedy, namely, in the record of larger periods. 
What is the mean of many states; of aU the states? Does 
the general voice of ages affirm any principle, or is no com- 
munity of sentiment discoverable in distant times and places, 
And when it shows the power of self-interest, I accept that 
as a part of the divine law, and must reconcile it with 
aspiration the best I can. 

The word Fate, or Destiny, expresses the sense of man- 
kind, in all ages, — that the laws of the world do not always 
befriend, but often hurt and crush us. Fate, in the shape 
of Kinde or nature, grows over us like grass. We paint 
Time with a scythe; Love and Fortune, blind; and Destiny, 
deaf. We have too little power of resistance against thds 
ferocity which champs us up. What front can we make agains^ 



376 MONTAIGNE: OR, THE SKEPTIC 

these unavoidable, victorious, maleficent forces? What can 
I do against the influence of Race, in my history? What 
can I do against hereditary and constitutional habits, against 
scrofula, lymph, impotence? against climate, against bar- 
barism, in my country? I can reason down or deny every 
thing, except this perpetual Belly: feed he must and will, and 
I cannot make him respectable. 

But the main resistance which the affirmative impulse 
finds, and one including all others, is in the doctrine of the 
Illusionists. There is a painful rumor in circulation, that 
we have been practised upon in all the principal perform- 
ances of life, and free agency is the emptiest name. We 
have been sopped and drugged with the air, with food, with 
woman, with children, with sciences, with events, which 
leave us exactly where they found us. The mathematics, 
'tis complained, leave the mind where they find it : so do all 
sciences; and so do all events and actions. I find a man 
who has passed through all the sciences, the churl he was; and, 
through all the offices, learned, civil, and social, can detect 
the child. We are not the less necessitated to dedicate life 
to them. In fact, we may come to accept it as the fixed 
rule and theory of our state of education, that God is a 
substance, and his method is illusion. The eastern sages 
owned the goddess Yoganidra, the great illusory energy 
of Vishnu, by whom, as utter ignorance, the whole world is 
beguiled. 

Or, shall I state it thus?— The astonishment of life, is, the 
absence of any appearance of reconciliation between the 
theory and practice of Hfe. Reason, the prized reality, the 
Law, is apprehended, now and then, for a serene and pro- 
found moment, amidst the hubbub of cares and works which 
have no direct bearing on it; — ^is then lost, for months or 
years, and again found, for an interval, to be lost again. 
If we compute it in time, we may, in fifty years, have half 
a dozen reasonable hours. But what are these cares and 
works the better? A method in the world we do not see, 
but this parallelism of great and little, which never react on 
each other, nor discover the smallest tendency to converge. 



MONTAIGNE: OR, THE SKEPTIC 377 

Experiences, fortunes, govemings, readings, writings are noth- 
ing to the purpose;' as when a man comes into the room, it 
does not appear whether he has been fed on yams or buffalo, 
— ^he has contrived to get so much bone and fibre as he 
wants, out of rice or out of snow. So vast is the dispro- 
portion between the sky of law and the pismire of per- 
formance under it, that, whether he is a man of worth or a 
sot, is not so great a matter as we say. Shall I add, as one 
juggle of this enchantment, the stunning non-intercourse 
law which makes cooperation impossible? The young spirit 
pants to enter society. But all the ways of culture and 
greatness lead to solitary imprisonment. He has been often 
baulked. He did not expect a sympathy with his thought 
from the village, but he went with it to the chosen and in- 
telligent, and foimd no entertainment for it, but mere 
misapprehension, distaste, and scoffing. Men are strangely 
npdstimed and misapphed; and the excellence of each is an 
inflamed individualism which separates him more. 

There are these, and more than these diseases of thought, 
which our ordinary teachers do not attempt to remove. 
Now shall we, because a good nature inclines us to virtue's 
side, say. There are no doubts, — ^and Ue for the right? Is 
life to be led in a brave or in a cowardly manner? and 
is not the satisfaction of the doubts essential to all man- 
liness? Is the name of virtue to be a barrier to that which 
is virtue? Can you not believe that a man of earnest and 
burly habit may find small good, in tea, essays, and cate- 
chism, and want a rougher instruction, want men, labor, 
trade, farming, war, hunger, plenty, love, hatred, doubt, 
and terror, to make things plain to him; and has he not a 
right to insist on being convinced in his own way? When 
he is convinced, he will be worth the pains. 

Behef consists in accepting the affirmations of the soul; 
imbelief, in denying them. Some minds are incapable of 
skepticism. The doubts they profess to entertain are 
rather a civility or accommodation to the common discourse 
of their company. They may well give themselves leave 
to speculate, for they are secure of a return. Once admitted 
to the heaven of thought, they see no relax)se into night, but 



378 MONTAIGNE: OR, THE SKEPTIC 

infinite invitation on the other side. Heaven is within 
heaven, and sky over sky, and they are encompassed with 
divinities. Others there are, to whom the heaven is brass, 
and it shuts down to the surface of the earth. It is a 
question of temperament, or of more or less immersion in 
nature. The last class must needs have a reflex or parasite 
faith; not a sight of reahties, but an instinctive reliance on 
the seers and believers of realities. The manners and 
thoughts of believers astonish them, and convince them that 
these have seen something which is hid from them- 
selves. But their sensual habit would fix the believer to 
his last position, whilst he as inevitably advances; and 
presently the unbeliever, for love of belief, bums the 
believer. 

Great believers are always reckoned infidels, impracticable, 
fantastic, atheistic, and really men of no account. The 
spiritualist finds himself driven to express his faith by 
a series of skepticisms. Charitable souls come with their 
projects, and ask his cooperation. How can he hesitate? 
It is the rule of mere comity and courtesy to agree where 
you can, and to turn your sentence with something aus- 
picious, and not freezing and sinister. But he is forced to 
say, "O, these things will be as they must be: what can you 
do? These particular griefs and crimes are the foliage and 
fruit of such trees as we see growing. It is vain to complain 
of the leaf or the berry: cut it off; it will bear another just 
as bad. You must begin your cure lower down." The 
generosities of the day prove an intractable element for 
him. The people's questions are not his; their methods are 
not his; and, against all the dictates of good* nature, he 
is driven to say, he has no pleasure in them. 

Even the doctrines dear to the hope of man, of the divine 
Providence, and of the immortality of the soul, his neighbors 
cannot put the statement so that he shall affirm it. But 
he denies out of more faith, and not less. He denies out of 
honesty. He had rather stand charged with tJie imbecility 
of skepticism, than with untruth. I believe, he says, in 
the moral design* of the universe; it exists hospitably for 
the weal of souls; but your dogmas seem to me caricatures: 



MONTAIGNE: OR, THE SKEPTIC 379 

why should I make believe them? Will any say, this is 
cold and infidel? The wise and magnanimous will not say 
so. They will exult in his far-sighted good-will, that can 
abandon to the adversary all the ground of tradition and 
common behef, without losing a jot of strength. It sees 
to the end of all transgression. George Fox saw "that there 
was an ocean of darkness and death; but withal, an in- 
finite ocean of hght and love which flowed over that of 
darkness." 

The final solution in which skepticism is lost is in the 
moral sentiment, which never forfeits its supremacy. All 
moods may be safely tried, and their weight allowed to all 
objections: the moral sentiment as easily outweighs them 
all, as any one. This is the drop which balances the sea. 
I play with the miscellany of facts, and take those super- 
ficial views which we call skepticism; but I know that they 
will presently appear to me in that order which makes 
skepticism impossible. A man of thought must feel the 
thought that is parent of the imiverse: that the masses of 
nature do undulate and flow. 

This faith avails" to the whole emergency of hfe and ob- 
jects. The world is saturated with deity and with law. He 
is content with just and unjust, with sots and fools, with 
the triumph of folly and fraud. He can behold with 
serenity the yawning gulf between the ambition of man ajid 
his power of performance, between the demand and supply 
of power, which makes the tragedy of all souls. 

Charles Fourier announced that "the attractions of man 
are proportioned to his destinies"; in other words, that every 
desire predicts its own satisfaction. Yet, all experience 
exhibits the reverse of this; the incompetency of power is 
the universal grief of young and ardent minds. They accuse 
the divine providence of a certain parsimony. It has shown 
the heaven and earth to every child, and filled him with a 
desire for the whole; a desire raging, infinite; a hunger, as 
of space to be filled with planets; a cry of famine, as of 
devils for souls. Then for the satisfaction, — ^to each man is 
administered a single drop, a bead of dew of vital power 
per day, — a cup as large as space, and one drop of the water 



380 MONTAIGNE: OR, THE SKEPTIC 

of life in it. Each man woke in the morning, with an appetite 
that could eat the solar system like a cake; a spirit for 
action and passion without bounds; he could lay his hand 
on the morning star: he could try conclusions with gravi- 
tation or chemistry; but, on the first motion to prove his 
strength — ^hands, feet, senses, gave way, and would not 
serve him. He was an emperor deserted by his states, and 
left to whistle by himself, or thrust into a mob of emperors, 
all whistling: and still the sirens sang, 'The attractions are 
proportioned to the destinies.'' In every house, in the 
heart of each maiden, and of each boy, in the soul of the 
soaring saint, this chasm is f oimd, — ^between the largest prom- 
ise of ideal power, and the shabby experience. 

The expansive nature of truth comes to our succor, elastic, 
not to be surrounded. Man helps himself by larger gener- 
alizations. The lesson of hfe is practically to generalize; 
to believe what the years and the centuries say against the 
hours; to resist the usurpation of particulars; to penetrate 
to their cathohc sense. Things seem to say one thing, and 
say the reverse. The appearance is immoral; the result 
is moral. Things seem to tend downward, to justify de- 
spondency, to promote rogues, to defeat the just; and, by 
knaves, as by martyrs, the just cause is carried forward. 
Although knaves win in every political struggle, although 
society seems to be delivered over from the hands of one set 
of criminals into the hands of another set of criminals, as 
fast as the government is changed, and the marCh of civili- 
zation is a train of felonies, yet, general ends are somehow 
answered. We see, now, events forced on, which seem to 
retard or retrograde the civility of ages. But the world- 
spirit is a good swimmer, and storms and waves cannot 
drown him. He snaps his finger at laws : and so, throughout 
history, heaven seems to affect low and poor means. 
Through the years and the centuries, through evil agents, 
through toys and atoms, a great and beneficent tendency 
irresistibly streams. 

Let a man learn to look for the permanent in the 
mutable and fleetimg; let him learn to bear the disappearance 
of things he was wont to reverence, without losing his 



MONTAIGNE: OR, THE SKEPTIC 381 

reverence; let him leam that he is here, not to work, but to 
be worked upon; and that, though abyss open imder abyss, 
and opinion displace opinion, all are at last contained in the 
Eternal cause. — 

**U my bark sinlL 'tis to another sea." 



XX 

NAPOLEON; OR, THE MAN OF THE WORLD 

Among the eminent persons of the nineteenth century, 
Bonaparte is far the best known, and the most powerful; 
and owes his predominance to the fidehty with which he 
expresses the tone of thought and beUef, the aims ^f the 
masses of active and cultivated men. It is Swedenborg's 
theory, that every organ is made up of homogeneous par- 
ticles : or, as it is sometimes expressed, every whole is made 
of similars; that is, the lungs are composed of infinitely 
small lungs; the hver, of infinitely small fivers; the kidney, 
of Uttle kidneys, &c. Following this analogy, if any man 
is found to carry with him the power and affections of vast 
numbers, if Napoleon is France, if Napoleon is Europe, it 
is because the people whom he sways are fittle Napoleons. 

In our society, there is a standing antagonism between 
the conservative and the democratic classes; between those 
who have made their fortunes, and the young and the poor 
who have fortunes to make; between the interests of dead 
labor, — that is, the labor of hands long ago still in the grave, 
which labor is now entombed in money stocks, or in land 
and buildings owned by idle capitalists, — and the interests 
of Uving labor, which seeks to possess itself of land, and build- 
ings, and money stocks. The first class is timid, selfish, 
illiberal, hating innovation, and continually losing nimibers 
by death. The second class is selfish also, encroaching, bold, 
self-relying, always outnumbering the other, and recruiting 
its numbers /ery hour by births. It desires to keep open 
every avenue to the competition of all, and to multiply 
avenues; — ^the class of business men in America, in England, 
in France, and throughout Europe; the class of industry 
and skill. Napoleon is its representative. The instinct (^ 

882 



NAPOLEON; OR THE MAN OF THE WORLD 383 

active, brave, able men, throughout the middle class every 
where, has pointed out Napoleon as the incarnate Demo- 
crat. He had their virtues, and their vices; above all, he 
had their spirit or aim. That tendency is material, pointing 
at a sensual success, and employing the richest and most 
various means to that end; conversant with mechanical 
powers, highly intellectual, widely and accurately learned 
and skilful, but subordinating all intellectual and spiritual 
forces into means to a material success. To be the rich man, 
is the end. "God has granted," says the Koran, "to every 
people a prophet in its own tongue." Paris, and London 
and New York, the spirit of conmierce, of money, and mate- 
rial power, were also to have their prophet; and Bonaparte 
was qualified and sent. 

Every one of the million readers of anecdotes, or memoirs, 
or hves of Napoleon, delights in the page, because he studies 
in it his own history. Napoleon is thoroughly modem, and, 
at the highest point of his fortunes, has the very spirit of the 
newspapers. He is no saint, — ^to use his own word, "no 
capuchin," and he is no hero, in the high sense. The man 
in the street finds in him the qualities and powers of other 
men in the street. He finds him, like himself, by birth a 
citizen, who, by very intelligible merits, arrived at such a 
commanding position, that he could indulge all those tastes 
which the common man possesses, but is obliged to conceal 
and deny: good society, good books, fast travelling, dress, 
dinners, servants without number, personal weight, the exe- 
cution of his ideas, the standing in the attitude of a bene- 
factor to all persons about him, the refined enjoyments of 
pictures, statues, music, palaces, and conventional honors, — 
precisely what is agreeable to the heart of every man in the 
nineteenth century, — this powerful man possessed. 

It is true that a man of Napoleon's truth of adaptation 
to the mind of the masses around him, becomes not merely 
representative, but actually a monopolizer and usurper of 
other minds. Thus Mirabeau plagiarized every good 
thought, every good word, that was spoken in France. Dumont 
relates, that he sat in the gallery of the Convention, and 
heard Mirabeau make a speech. It struck Dumont that be 



384 NAPOLEON; OR THE MAN OF THE WORLD 

could fit it with a peroration, which he wrote in pencil im- 
mediately, and showed to Lord Elgin, who sat by him. 
Lord Elgin approved it, and Dumont, in the evening, showed 
it to Mirabeau. Mirabeau read it, pronounced it admirable, 
and declared he would incorporate it into his harangue, to- 
morrow, to the Assembly. "It is impossible," said Dumont, 
"as, unfortimately, I have shown it to Lord Elgin." "If you 
have shown it to Lord Elgin, and to fifty persons beside, I 
shall still speak it to-morrow:" and he did speak it, with 
much effect, at the next day's session. For Mirabeau, with 
his overpowering personahty, felt that these things, which 
his presence inspired, were as much his own, as if he had said 
them, and that his adoption of them gave them their weight. 
Much more absolute and centralizing was the successor to 
Mirabeau's popularity, and to much more than his pre- 
dominance in France. Indeed, a man of Napoleon's stamp 
almost ceases to have a private speech and opinion. He is 
so largely receptive, and is so placed, that he comes to be 
a bureau for all the intelligence, wit, and power, of the age 
and country. He gains the battle: he makes the code: be 
makes the system of weights and measures; he levels the 
Alps; he builds the road. All distinguished engineers, 
savans, statists, report to him: so likewise, do all good heads 
in every kind: he adopts the best measures, sets his stamp on 
them, and not these alone, but on every happy and memorable 
expression. Every sentence spoken by Napoleon, and every 
line of his writing, deserves .reading, as it is the sense of France. 
Bonaparte was the idol of common men, because he had 
in transcendent degree the quaUties and powers of common 
men. There is a certain satisfaction in coming down to the 
lowest ground of politics, for we get rid of cant and hypoc- 
risy. Bonaparte wrought, in conmion with that great class 
he represented, for i)ower and wealth, — ^but Bonaparte; 
specially, without any scruple as to the means. All the 
sentiments which embarrass men's pursuits of these objects, 
he set aside. The sentiments were for women and children. 
Fontanes, in 1804, expressed Napoleon's own sense, when, in 
behalf of the Senate, he addressed him, — ^"Sire, the desire of 
perfection is the worst disease that ever afflicted the bum&n 

i 



NAPOLEON; OR THE MAN OF THE WORLD 385 

mind." The advocates of liberty, and of progress, are 
"ideologists;" — a word of contempt often in his mouth; — 
"Necker is an ideologist:" "Lafayette is an ideologist." 

An Italian proverb, too well known, declares that, "if you 
would succeed, you must not be too good." It is an advan- 
tage, within certain limits, to have renoxmced the dominion 
of the sentiments of piety, gratitude, and generosity; since, 
what was an impassable bar to us, and still is to others, 
becomes a convenient weapon for our purposes; just as the 
river which was a formidable barrier, winter transforms into 
the smoothest of roads. 

Napoleon renounced, once for all, sentiments and affec- 
tions, and would help himself with his hands and his head. 
With him is no miracle, and no magic. He is a worker in 
brass, in iron, in wood, in earth, in roads, in buildings, in 
money, and in troops, and a very consistent and wise master- 
workman. He is never weak and hterary, but acts with the 
solidity and the precision of natural agents. He has not 
lost his native sense and sympathy with things. Men give 
way before such a man, as before natural events. To be 
sure, there are naen enough who are inmiersed in things, as 
farmers, smiths, sailors, and mechanics generally; and we 
know how real and solid such men appear in the presence of 
scholars and grammarians: but these men ordinarily lack 
the power of arrangement, and are like hands without a 
head. But Bonaparte superadded to this mineral and 
flftmnal force, insight and generalization, so that men saw in 
him combined the natural and the intellectual power, as if 
the sea and land had taken flesh and begun to cipher. 
Therefore the land and sea seem to presuppose him. He 
came into hit own, and they received him. This ciphering 
operative knows what he is working with, and what is the 
product. He knew the properties of gold and iron, of wheels 
and ships, of troops and diplomatists, and required that 
each should do after its kind. 

: The art of war was the game in which he exerted his 
arithmetic. It consisted, according to him, in having always 
more forces than the enemy, on the point where the enemy 
IS attacked, or where he attacks: and his whole talent is 



386 NAPOLEON; OR THE MAN OF THE WORLD 

strained by endless manoeuvre and evolution, to march 
always on the enemy at an angle, and destroy his forces in 
detail. It i^ obvious that a very small force, skilfully and 
rapidly manoeuvring, so as always to bring two men against 
one at the point of engagement, will be an overmatch for 
a much larger body of men. 

The times, his constitution, and his early circumstances, 
combined to develop this pattern democrat. He had the 
virtues of his class, and the conditions for their activity. 
That common sense, which no sooner respects any end, 
than it finds the means to effect it; the delight in the use 
of means; in the choice, simplification, and combining of 
means; the directness and thoroughness of his work; the 
prudence with which all was seen, and the energy with 
which all was done, make him the natural organ and head of 
what I may almost call, from its extent, the modem party. 

Nature must have far the greatest share in every success, 
and so in his. Such a man was wanted, and such a man was 
bom; a man of stone and iron, capable of sitting on horse- 
back sixteen or seventeen hours, of going many da3rs to- 
gether without rest or food, except by snatches, and with 
the speed and spring of a tiger in action; a man not em- 
barrassed by any scruples; compact, instant, selfish, prudent, 
and of a perception which did not suffer itself to be balked or 
misled by any pretences of others, or any superstition, or 
any heat or haste of his own. "My hand of iron," he said, 
"was not at the extremity of my arm: it was immediately 
connected with my head." He respected the power of 
nature and fortune, and ascribed to it his superiority, 
instead of valuing himself, like inferior men, on his opinion- 
ativeness and waging war with nature. His favorite 
rhetoric lay in allusion to his star: and he pleased himself, 
as well i.s the people, when he styled himself the "Child of 
Destiny." "They charge me," he said, "with the com- 
mission of great crimes: men of my stamp do not commit 
crimes. Nothing has been more simple than my elevation: 
'tis in vain to ascribe it to intrigue or crime: it was owing 
to the peculiarity of the times, and to my reputation of 
having foijght well against the enemies of my country. I 



NAPOLEON; OR THE MAN OF THE WORLD 387 

have always marched with the opinion of great masses, and 
with events. Of what use, then, would crimes be to me?" 
Again he said, speaking of his son, ''My son dan not replace 
me; I could not replace myself. I am the creature of cir- 
cumstances." 

He had a directness of action never before combined 
with so much' comprehension. He is a realist, terrific to 
all talkers, and confused truth-obscuring persons. He sees 
where the nutter hinges, throws himself on the precise 
point of resistance, and slights all other considerations. He 
is strong in the right manner, namely, by insight. He never 
blundered into victory, but won his battles in his head, 
before he won them on the field. His principal means are 
in himself. He asks counsel of no other. In 1796, he writes 
to the Directory: "I have conducted the campaign without 
consulting any one. I should have done no good, if I had 
been under the necessity of conforming to the notions of 
another person. I have gained some advantages over su- 
perior forces, and when totally destitute of every thing, 
because, in the persuasion that your confidence was re- 
posed in me, my actions were aa^ prompt as my thoughts." 

History is full, down to this day, of the imbecility of 
kings and governors. They are a class of persons much to 
be pitied, for they know not what they should do. The 
weavers strike for bread; and the king and his ministers, 
not knowing what to do, meet them with bayonets. But 
(Napoleon understood his business. Here was a man who, 
in each moment and emergency, knew what to do next. It 
is an immense comfort and refreshment to the spirits, not 
only of kings, but of citizens. Few men have any next; 
they live from hand to mouth, without plan, and are ever 
at the end of their line, and, after each action, wait for an 
impulse from abroad. Napoleon had been the first man of 
the world, if his ends had been purely public. As he is, he 
inspires confidence and vigor by the extraordinary unity 
of his action. He is firm, sure, self-denying, self-postponing, 
sacrificing every thing to his aim, — money, troops, generals, 
and his own safety also, to his aim; not misled, like common 
adventurers, by the splendor Qf bis own means. 'Incidents 



388 NAPOLEON; OR THE MAN OF THE WORLD 

ought not to govern policy," he said, "but pohcy, incidents." 
"To be hurried away by every event, is to have no political 
system at all." His victories were only so many doors, and 
he never for a moment lost sight of his way onward, in the 
dazzle and uproar of the present circumstance. He knew 
what to do, and he flew to his mark. He would shorten 
a straight line to come at his object. Horrible anecdotes 
may, no doubt, be collected from his history, of the price 
at which he bought his successes; but he must not therefore 
be set down as cruel; but only as one who knew no impedi- 
ment to his will; not bloodthirsty, not cruel, — ^but woe to 
what thing or person stood in his way! Not bloodthirsty, 
but not sparing of blood, — ^and pitiless. He saw only the 
object: the obstacle must give way. "Sire, General Clarke 
can not combine with General Junot, for the dreadful fire 
of the Austrian battery." — "Let him carry the battery." — 
"Sire, every regiment that approaches the heavy artillery 
is sacrificed: Sire, what orders?" — ^"Forward, forward!" 
Seruzier, a colonel of artillery, gives, in his AftZitart/ Memoirs, 
the following sketch of a scene after the battle of Austerlitz. — 
"At the moment in which the Russian army was making its 
retreat, painfully, but in good order, on the ice of the lake, 
the Emperor Napoleon came riding at full speed toward the 
artillery. 'You are losing time,' he cried; 'fire u^on those 
masses; they must be engulfed; fire upon the ice!' The 
order remained unexecuted for ten minutes. In vain sev- 
eral oflGicers and myself were placed on the slope of a hill to 
produce the effect: their balls and mine rolled upon the ice, 
without breaking it up. Seeing that, I tried a simple method 
of elevating light howitzers. The almost perpendicular 
fall of the heavy projectiles produced the desired effect. My 
method was immediately followed by the adjoining batteries, 
and in less than no time we buried" some^ "thousands of 
Russians and Austrians under the waters of the lake." 

In the plenitude of his resources, every obstacle seemed to 
vanish. "There shall be no Alps," he said; and he built 
his perfect roads, climbing by graded galleries their steepest 

^ As I quote at second hand, and cannot procure Senuier, Tdaro 
not. adopt the high figure X find, 



NAPOLEON; OR THE MAN OF THE WORLD 389 

precipices, until Italy was as open to Paris as any town in 
France. He laid his bones to, and wrought for his crown. 
Haying decided what was to be done, he did that with might 
and main. He put out all his strength. He risked every 
thing, and spared nothing, neither ammunition, nor money, 
nor troops, nor generals, nor himself. 

We like to see every thing do its office after its kind, 
whether it be a milch-cow or a rattlesnake; and, if fighting 
be the best mode of adjusting national differences (as large 
majorities of men seem to agree), certainly Bonaparte was 
right in making it thorough. "The grand principle of war," 
he said, "was, that an army ought always to be ready, by 
day and by night, and at all hours, to make all the resistance 
it is capable of making." He never economized his ammimi- 
tion, but, on a hostile position, rained a torrent of iron, — 
shells, balls, grape-shot, — ^to annihilate all defence. On 
any point of resistance, he concentrated squadron on squad- 
ron in overwhelming numbers, imtil it was swept out of 
existence. To a regiment of horse-chasseurs at Lobenstein, 
two days before the battle of Jena, Napoleon said, "My lads, 
you must not fear death; when soldiers brave death, they 
drive him into the enemy's ranks." In the fury of assault, 
he no more spared himself. He went to the edge of his pos- 
sibility. It is plain that in Italy he did what he could, and 
all that he could. He came, several times, within an inch 
of ruin; and. his own person was all but lost. He was flung 
into the marsh at Areola. The Austrians were between him 
and his troops in the melee, and he was brought off with 
desperate efforts. At Lonato, and at other places, he was 
on the point of being taken prisoner. He fought sixty 
battles. He had never enough. Each victory was a new 
weapon. "My power would fall, were I not to support it 
by new achievements. Conquest has made me what I am, and 
conquest must maintain me." He felt, with every wise man, 
that as much life is needed for conservation as for creation. 
We are always in peril, always in a bad plight, just on the 
edge of destruction, and only to be saved by invention and 
courage. 

This vigor was guarded and tempered by the coldest 



390 NAPOLEON; OR THE MAN OF THE WORLD 

prudence and punctuality. A thunderbolt in the attack, 
he was found invuhierable in his intrenchments. His very 
attack was never the inspiration of courage, but the result 
of calculation. His idea of the best defence consists in 
being still the attacking party. ''My ambition/' he says, 
"was great, but was of a cold nature." In one of his con- 
versations with Las Casas, he remarked, "As to moral 
courage, I have rarely met with the two-o*clock-in-the- 
moming kind: I mean unprepared courage, that which is 
necessary on an unexpected occasion; and which, in spite of 
the most unforeseen events, leaves full freedom of judgnient 
and decision:" and he did not hesitate to declare that he 
was himself eminently endowed with this "two-o'clock-in-the- 
moming courage, and that he had met with few persons 
equal to himself in this respect." 

Every thing depended on the nicety of his combinations, 
and the stars were not more punctual than his arithmetic. 
His personal attention descended to the smallest particulars. 
"At Montebello, I ordered Kellermann to attack with eight 
hundred horse, and with these he separated the six thousand 
Hungarian grenadiers, before the very eyes of the Austrian 
cavalry. This cavalry was half a league off, and required a 
quarter of an hour to arrive on the field of action; and I 
have observed, that it is always these quarters of an hour 
that decide the fate of a battle." "Before he fought a 
battle, Bonaparte thought little about what he -should do in 
case of success, but a great deal about what he should do in 
case of a reverse of fortune." The same prudence and good 
sense mark all his behavior. His instructions to his sec- 
retary at the Tuilleries are worth remembering. "During 
the night, enter my chamber as seldom as possible. Do not 
awake me when you have any good news to communicate; 
with that there is no hurry. But when you bring bad news, 
rouse me instantly, for then there is not a moment to be 
lost." It was a whimsical economy of the same kind which 
dictated his practice, when general in Italy, in regard to 
his burdensome correspondence. He directed Bourienne 
to leave all letters unopened for three weeks, and then 
observed with satisfaction how large a part of the corre- 



NAPOLEON; OR THE MAN OF THE WORLD 391 

spondence had thus disposed of itself, and no longer re- 
quired an answer. His achievement of business was im- 
mense, and enlarges the known powers of man. There have 
been many working kings, from Ulysses to William of 
Orange, but none who accomplished a tithe of this man's 
performance. 

To these gifts of nature, Napoleon added the advantage of 
having been born to a private and humble fortune. In his 
latter days, he had the weakness of wishing to add to his 
crowns and badges the prescription of aristocracy: but he 
knew his debt to his austere education, and made no secret 
of his contempt for the bom kings, and for "the hereditary 
asses," as he coarsely styled the Bourbons. He said that, 
"in their exile, they had learned nothing, and forgot noth- 
ing.'' Bonaparte had passed through all the degrees of 
military service, but also was citizen before he was emperor, 
and so has the key to citizenship. His remarks and esti- 
mates discover the information and justness of measurement 
of the middle class. Those who had to deal with him, 
found that he was not to be imposed upon, but could cipher 
as well as another man. This appears in all parts of his 
Memoirs, dictated at St. Helena. When the expenses of the 
empress, of his household, of his palaces, had accumulated 
great debts. Napoleon examined the bills of the creditors 
himself, detected overcharges and errors, and reduced the 
claims by considerable simis. 

His grand weapon, namely, the millions whom he directed, 
he owed to the representative character which clothed him. 
He interests us as he stands for France and for Europe; and 
he exists as captain and king, only as far as the Revolution, 
or the interest of the industrious masses, found an organ 
and a leader in him. In the social interests, he knew the 
meaning and value of labor, and threw himself naturally on 
that side. I like an incident mentioned by one of his 
biographers at St. Helena. "When walking with Mrs. Bal- 
combe, some servants, carrying heavy boxes, passed by on 
the road, and Mrs. Balcombe desired them, in rather an 
angry tone, to keep back. Napoleon interfered, saying, 
'Respect the burden. Madam.' " In the time of the empire, 



392 NAPOLEON; OR THE MAN OF THE WORLD 

he directed attention to the improvement and embellishment 
of the markets of the capital. ''The market-place/' he Kud, 
"is the Louvre of the common people." The principal works 
that have survived him are his magnificent roads. He 
filled the troops with his spirit^ and a sort of freedom and 
companionship grew up between him and them, which the 
forms of his court never permitted between the officers and 
himself. They performed, imder his eye, that which no 
others could do. The best document of his relation to his 
troops is the order of the day on the morning of the battle of 
Austerlitz, in which Napoleon promises the troops that he 
will keep his person out of reach of fire. This declaration, 
which is the reverse of that ordinarily made by generals 
and sovereigns on the eve of a battle, sufficiently explains 
the devotion of the army to their leader. 

But though there is in particulars this identity between 
Napoleon and the mass of the people, his real strength lay 
in their conviction that he was their, representative in hb 
genius and aims, not only when he courted, but when he 
controlled and even when he decimated them by his con- 
scriptions. He knew, as well as any Jacobin in France, how 
to philosophize on liberty and equality; and, when allusion 
was made to the precious blood of centuries, which was 
spilled by the killing of the Due d'Enghien, he suggested 
"Neither is *ay blood ditch-water." The people felt that no 
longer the throne was occupied, and the land sucked of its 
nourishment, by a small class of legitimates, secluded from 
all cranmunity with the children of the soil, and holding the 
ideas and superstitions of a long-forgotten state of society. 
Instead of that vampire, a man of themselves held, in the 
Tuilleries, knowledge and ideas like their own,/Oi)ening, of 
course, to them and their children, all places of power and 
trust. The day of sleepy, selfish policy, ever narrowing the 
means and opportunities of young men, was ended, and a 
day of expansion and demand was come, A ^arbet for all 
the powers and productions of man was opened; brilliant 
prizes glittered in the eyes of youth and talent. The old, 
iron-bound, feudal France was changed into a young Ohio 
or New York; and those who smarted under the immediate 



NAPOLEON; OR THE MAN OF THE WORLD 393 

rigors of the new monarch, pardoned them, as the necessary 
severities of the military system which had driven out the 
oppressor. And even when the majority of the people had 
begun to ask, whether they had really gained any thing 
under the exhausting levies of men and money of the new 
master, — ^the whole talent of the country, in every rank and 
kindred, took his part, and defended him as its natural 
patron. In 1814, when advised to rely on the higher classes, 
Napoleon said to those around him, "Gentlemen, in the 
situation in which I stand, my only nobility is the rabble of 
the Faubourgs." 

Napoleon met this natural expectation. The necessity of 
his position required a hospitality to every sort of talent, 
and its appointment to trusts; and his feeling went along 
with this policy. Like every superior person, he undoubt- 
edly felt a desire for men and compeers, and a wish to 
measure his power with other masters, and an impatience 
of fools and underlings. In Italy, he sought for men, and 
found none. "Good God!" he said, "how rare men are! 
There are eighteen millions in Italy, and I have with dif- 
ficulty found two, — Dandola and Melzi." In later years, 
with larger experience, his respect for mankind was not in- 
creased. In a moment of bitterness, he said, to one of his 
oldest friends, "Men deserve the contempt with which they 
inspire me. I have only to put some gold lace on the coat 
of my virtuous republicans, and they inunediately become 
just what I wish them." This impatience at levity was, 
however, an oblique tribute of respect to those able persons 
who conmianded his regard, not only when he found them 
friends and coadjutors, but also when they resisted his will. 
He could not confound Fox and Pitt, Camot, Lafayette, 
and Bemadotte with the danglers of his court; and, in 
spite of the detraction which his systematic egotism dictated 
toward the great captains who conquered with and for him, 
ample acknowledgments are made by him to Lannes, Duroc, 
Kleber, Dessaix, Massena, Murat, Ney, and Augereau. If 
he felt himself their patron, and the founder of their for- 
tunes, as when he said, "I made my generals out of mud," 
be could not hide his satisfaction in receiving from them a 



394 NAPOLEON; OR THE MAN OF THE WORLD 

seconding and support commensurate with the grandeur of 
his enterprise. In the Russian campaign, he was so much 
impressed by the courage and resources of Marshal Ney, 
that he said, '1 have two himdred millions in my coffers, and 
I would give them all for Ney." The characters which he has 
drawn of several of his marshals are discriminating, and, 
though they did not content the insatiable vanity of French 
officers, are, no doubt, substantially just. And, in fact, 
every species of merit was sought and advanced imder his 
government. "I know," he said, "the depth and draught of 
water of every one of my generals." Natural power was sure to 
be well received at his court. Seventeen men, in his time, 
were raised from common soldiers to the rank of king, 
marshal, duke, or general; and the crosses of his Legion of 
Honor were given to personal valor, and not to family 
connection. "When soldiers have been baptized in the fire of 
a battle-field, they have all one rank in my eyes." 

When a natural king becomes a titlito king, everybody is 
pleased and satisfied. The Revolution entitled the strong 
populace of the Faubourg St. Antoine, and every horse-boy 
and powder-monkey in the 'army, to look on Napoleon, as 
flesh of his flesh, and the creature of his party: but there 
is something in the success of grand talent which enlists an 
imiversal sympathy. For, in the prevalence of sense and 
spirit over stupidity and malversation, all reasonable men 
have an interest; and, as intellectual beings, we feel the air 
purified by the electric shock, when material force is over- 
thrown by intellectual energies. As soon as we are removed 
out of the reach of local and accidental partialities, man feels 
that Napoleon fights for him; these are honest victories; 
this strong steam-engine does our work. Whatever appeals 
to the imagination, by transcending the ordinary limits of 
human ability, wonderfully encourages and liberates us. 
This capacious head, revolving and disposing sovereignly 
trains of affairs, and animating such multitudes of agents; 
this eye, which looked through Europe; this prompt in- 
vention; this inexhaustible resource; — ^what events! what 
romantic pictures! what strange situations! — ^when spying 
the Alps, by a sunset in the Sicilian sea; drawing up his 



NAPOLEON; OR THE MAN OF THE WORLD 395 

army for battle, in sight of the Pyramids, and sa3dng to his 
troops, "From the tops of those pyramids, forty centuries 
look down on you;" fording the Red Sea; wading in the 
gulf of the Isthmus of Suez. On the shore of Ptolemais, 
gigantic projects agitated him. "Had Acre fallen, I should 
have changed the face of the world." His army, on the 
night of the battle of Austerlitz, which was the anniversary 
of his inauguration as Emperor, presented him with a bou- 
quet of forty standards taken in the fight. Perhaps it is a 
little puerile, the pleasure he took in making these contrasts 
glaring; as when he pleased himself with making kings wait 
in his antechambers, at Tilsit, at Paris, and at Erfurt. 

We cannot, in the universal imbecility, indecision, and 
indolence of men, sufficiently congratulate ourselves on this 
strong and ready actor, who took occa^on by the beard, 
and showed us how much may be accomplished by the mere 
force of such virtues as all men possess in less degrees; 
namely, by punctuality, by personal attention, by courage, 
and thoroughness. "The Austrians," he said, "do not know 
the value of time." I should cite him, in his earlier years, as 
a model of prudence. His power does not consist in any 
wild or extravagant force; in any enthusiasm, like Ma- 
homet's; or singular power of persuasion; but in the exercise 
of common sense on each emergency, instead of abiding by 
rules and customs. The lesson he teaches is that which 
vigor always teaches, — that there is always room for it. To 
what heaps of cowardly doubts is not that man's life an 
answer. When he appeared, it was the belief of all military 
men that there could be nothing new in war; as it is the 
belief of men to-day, that nothing new can be undertaken in 
politics, or in church, or in letters, or in trade, or in farming, 
or in our social manners and customs; and as it is, at all 
times, the belief of society that the world is used up. But 
Bonaparte knew better than society; and, moreover, knew 
that he knew better. I think all men know better than they 
do; know that the institutions we so volubly commend are 
go-carts and baubles; but they dare not trust their presenti- 
ments. Bonaparte relied on his own sense, and did not care 
a bean for other people's. The world treated his novelties 



396 NAPOLEON; OR THE MAN OF THE WORLD 

• 

just as it treats everybody's novelties, — ^made infinite ob- 
jection; mustered all the impediments; but he snapped his 
finger at their objections. "What creates great difficulty/' 
he remarks, "in the profession of the land-conmiander, is 
the necessity of feeding so many men and animals. If he 
allows himself to be guided by the commissaries, he will 
never stir, and all his expeditions will fail." An example of 
his common sense is what he says of the passage of the Alps 
in winter, which all writers, one repeating after the other, 
had described as impracticable. "The winter," says Na- 
poleon, "is not the most unfavorable season for the x)as8age 
of lofty mountains. The snow is then firm, the weather 
settled, and there is nothing to fear from avalanches, the 
real and only danger to be apprehended in the Alps. On 
those high moimtains, there are often very fine days in 
December, of a dry cold, with extreme calmness in the air." 
Read his account, too, of the way in which battles are 
gained. "In all battles, a moment occurs, when the bravest 
troops, after having made the greatest efforts, feel inclined 
to run. That terror proceeds from a want of confidence in 
their own courage; and it only requires a slight opportunity, 
a pretence, to restore confidence to them. The art is to give 
rise to the opportimity, and to invent the pretence. At 
Areola, I won the battle with twenty-five horsemen. I 
seized that moment of lassitude, gave every man a trumpet, 
and gained the day with this handful. You see that two 
armies are two bodies which meet, and endeavor to 
frighten each other: a moment of panic occurs, and that 
moment must be turned to advantage. When a man has 
been present in many actions, he distinguishes that moment 
without difficulty; it is as easy as casting up an addition." 
This deputy of the nineteenth century added to his gifts 
a capacity for speculation on general topics. He delighted 
in running through the range of practical, of literary, and of 
abstract questions. His opinion is always original, and to 
the purpose. On the voyage to Egypt, he liked, after din- 
ner, to fix on three or four persons to support a proposition, 
and as many to oppose it. He gave a subject, and the dis- 
cussions turned on questions of religion, the different kinds of 



NAPOLEON; OR THE MAN OF THE WORLD 397 

government, and the art of war. One day, he asked, 
whether the planets were inhabited? On another, what was 
the age of the world? Then he proposed to consider the 
probability of the destruction of the globe, either by water 
or by fire; at another time, the truth or fallacy of presenti- 
ments, and the interpretation of dreams. He was very fond 
of talking of religion. In 1806, he conversed with Foumier, 
bishop of Montpellier, on matters of theology. There were 
two points on which they could not agree, viz., that of hell, 
and that of salvation out of the pale of the church. The 
Emperor told Josephine, that he disputed like a devil on 
these two points, on which the bishop was inexorable. To 
the philosophers he readily yielded all that was proved 
against religion as the work of men and time; but he would 
not hear of materialism. One fine night, on deck, amid a 
clatter of materialism, Bonaparte pointed to the stars, and 
said, ''You may talk as long as you please, gentlemen, but 
who made all that?" He delighted in the conversation of 
men of science, particularly of Monge and Berthollet; but 
the men of letters he slighted; "they were manufacturers of 
phrases." Of medicine, too, he was fond of talking, and 
with those of its practitioners whom he most esteemed^ — 
with Corvisart at Paris, and with Antonomarchi at St. 
Helena. "Believe me," he said to the last, "we had better 
leave ofif all of these remedies: life is a fortress which neither 
you nor I know anything about. Why throw obstacles in 
the way of its defence? Its own means are superior to all 
the apparatus of your laboratories.- Corvisart candidly 
agreed with me, that all your filthy mixtures are good for 
nothing. Medicine is a collection of uncertain prescriptions, 
the results of which, taken collectively, are more fatal than 
useful to mankind. Water, air, and cleanliness, are the 
chief articles in my pharmacopeia." 

His Memoirs, dictated to Count Montholon and General 
Gourgaud, at St. Helena, have great value, after all the de- 
duction that, it seems, is to be made from them on account of 
his known disingenuousness. He has the good-nature of 
strength and conscious superiority. I admire his simple, 
clear narrative of his battles; --good as Csesar's; his good- 



398 NAPOLEON; OR THE MAN OF THE WORLD 

natured and sufficiently respectful account of Marshal 
Wurmser and his other antagonists, and his own equality as 
a writer to his varying subject. The most agreeable portion 
is the Campaign in Egypt. 

He had hours of thought and wisdom. In intervals of 
leisure^ either in the camp or the palace, Napoleon appears 
afi a man of genius, directing on abstract questions the native 
appetite for truth, and the impatience of words, he was wont 
to show in war. He could enjoy every play of invention, 
a romance, a bon mot, as well as a stratagem in a campaign. 
He delighted to fascinate Josephine and her ladies, in a dim- 
lighted apartment, by the terrors of a fiction, to which his 
voice and dramatic power lent every addition. 

I call Napoleon the agent or attorney of the middle class 
of modem society; of the throng who fill the markets, shops, 
counting-houses, manufactories, ships, of the modem world, 
aiming to be rich. He was the agitator, the destroyer of 
prescription, the internal improver, the liberal, the radical, 
the inventor of means, the opener of doors and markets, the 
subverter of monopoly and abuse. Of course, the rich and 
aristocratic did not like him. England, the center of capital, 
and Rome and Austria, centers of tradition and genealogy, 
opposed him. The consternation of the dull and conserva- 
tive classes, the terror of the foolish old men and old women 
of the Roman conclave, — ^who in their despair took hold of 
any thing, and would cling to red-hot iron, — ^the vain at- 
tempts of statists to amuse and deceive him, of the emperor 
of Austria to bribe him; and the instinct of the young, 
ardent, and active men, every where, which pointed him 
out as the giant of the middle class, make his history bright 
and commanding. He had the virtues of the masses of his 
constituents: he had also their vices. I am sorry that the 
brilliant picture has its reverse. But that is the fatal quality 
which we discover in our pursuit of wealth, that it is 
treacherous, and is bought by the breaking or weakening of 
the sentiments: and it is inevitable that we should find the 
same fact in the history of this champion, who proposed to 
himself simply a brilliant career, without any stipulation or 
scmple concerning the means. 



NAPOLEON; OR THE MAN OF THE WORLD 399 

Bonaparte was singularly destitute of generous sentiments. 
The highest-placed individual in the most cultivated age and 
population of the world, — ^he has not the merit of common 
truth and honesty. He is unjust to his generals; egotistic^ 
and monopolizing; meanly stealing the credit of their great 
actions from Kellermann, from Bernadotte; intriguing to in- 
volve his faithful Junot in hopeless bankruptcy, in order to 
drive him to a distatnce from Paris, because the familiarity of 
his manners offends the new pride of his throne. He is a bound- 
less liar. The official paper, his "Moniteurs," and all his bul- 
letins, are proverbs for saying what he wished to be believed; 
and worse, — ^he sat, in his premature old age, in his lonely 
island, coldly falsifying facts, and dates, and characters^ 
and giving to history a theatrical edat. Like all Frenchmen, 
he has a passion for stage effect. Every action that breathes 
of generosity is poisoned by this calculation. His star, his 
love of glory, his doctrine of the immortality of the soul are 
all French. "I must dazzle and astonish. If I were to give 
the liberty of the press, my power could not last three days.*' 
To make a great noise is his favorite design. "A great rep- 
utation is a great noise: the more there is made, the far- 
ther off it is heard. Laws, institutions, monuments, nations, 
all fall; but the noise continues, and resounds in after ages.'' 
His doctrine of inmiortality is simply fame. His theory of 
influence is not flattering. "There are two levers for moving 
men, — interest and fear. Love is a silly infatuation, depend 
upon it. Friendship is but a name. I love nobody. I do 
not even love my brothers: perhaps Joseph, a little, from 
habit, and because he is my elder; and Duroc, I love hjni 
too; but why?— ^because his character pleases me: he is 
stem and resolute, and, I believe, the fellow never shed a 
tear. For my part, I know very well that I have no true 
friends. As long as I continue to be what I am, I may have 
as many pretended friends as I please. Leave sensibility to 
wom^: but men should be firm in heart and purpose, or 
they should have nothing to do with war and government." 
He Wj» thoroughly unscrupulous. He would steal, slander, 
assassinate, drown, and poison, as his interest dictated. He 
had no generosity; but mere vulgar hatred: he was intensely 



400 NAPOLEON; OR THE MAN OF THE WORLD 

selfish: he was perfidious: he cheated at cards: he was a 
prodigious gossip; and opened letters; and delighted in his 
infamous pohce; and rubbed his hands with joy when he 
had intercepted some morsel of intelligehce concerning the 
men and women about him, boasting that "he knew every 
thing;'' and interfered with the cutting the dresses of the 
women; and listened after the hurrahs and the compliments 
of the street, incognito. His manners were coarse. He 
treated women with low familiarity. He had the habit 
.of pulling their ears and pinching their cheeks, when he was 
in good humor, and of pulling the ears and whiskers of men, 
and of striking and horse-play with them, to his last days. 
It does not appear that he listened at key-holes, or, at lesst, 
that he was caught at it. In short, when you have pene- 
trated through all the circles of power and splendor, you 
were not dealing with a gentleman, at last; but with an 
importer and a rogue: and he fully deserves the epithet of 
Jupiter Scapvn, or a sort of Scamp Jupiter. 

In describing the two parties into which modem society 
divides itself, — ^the democrat and the conservative, — I said, 
Bonaparte represents the democrat, or the party of men of 
business, against the stationary or conservative party. 
I omitted then to say, what is material to the statement, 
namely, that these two parties differ only as young and old. 
The democrat is a young conservative; the conservative is 
an old democrat. The aristocrat is the democrat ripe, and 
gone to seed, — because both parties stand on the one ground 
of the supreme value of property, which one endeavors to 
get, and the other to keep. Bonaparte may be said to 
represent the whole history of this party, its youth and its 
age; yes, and with poetic justice, its fate, in his own. The 
counter-revolution, the counter-party, still waits for its 
organ and representative, in a lover and a man of truly 
public and universal aims. 

Here was an experiment, under the most favorable cson- 
ditions, of the powers of intellect without conscience. 
Never was such a leader so endowed, and so weaponed; 
never leader found such aids and followers. And what was 



NAPOLEON; OR THE MAN OP THE WORLD 401 

the result of this vast talent and power, of these immense 
armies, burned cities, squandered treasures, immolated 
millions of men, of this demoralized Europe? It came to 
no result. All passed away, like the smoke of his artillery, 
and left no trace. He left France smaller, poorer, feebler, 
than he found it; and the whole contest for freedom was 
to be begim again. The attempt was, in principle, suicidal. 
France served him with life, and limb, and estate, as long as 
it could identify its interest with him; but when men saw 
that after victory was another war; after the destruction of 
armies, new conscriptions; and they who had toiled so 
desperately were never nearer to the reward, — ^they could 
not spend hat they had earned, nor repose on their down- 
beds, nor strut in their chateaux, — ^they deserted him. Men 
found thiat his absorbing egotism was deadly to all other men. 
It resembled the torpedo, which inflicts a succession of 
shocks on any one who takes hold of it, producing spasms 
which contract the muscles of the hand, so that the man 
cannot open his fingers; and the animal inflicts new and 
more violent shocks, until he paralyzes and kills his victim. 
So, this exorbitant egotist, narrowed, impoverished, and 
absorbed the power and existence of those who served 
him; and the universal cry of France, and of Europe, in 
1814, was, "enough of him;" "assez de Bonaparte*' 

It was not Bonaparte's fault. He did all that in him lay, 
to live and thrive without moral principle. It was the 
nature of things, the eternal law of man and of the world, 
/Which balked and ruined him; and the result, in a million 
\pxperiments, will be the same. Every experiment, by 
multitudes or by individuals, that has a sensual and selfish 
aim, will fail. The pacific Fourier will be as ineflicient as the 
pernicious Napoleon. As long as our civilization is essen- 
tially one of property, of fences, of exclusiveness, it will be 
mocked by delusions. Our riches will leave us sick; there 
will be bitterness in our laughter, and our wine will bum our 
mouth. Only that good profits, which we can taste with 
All doors open, and which serves all men. 






t. 



THE POET 

A moody child and wildly wise 

Pursued the game with joyful eyee. 

Which chose, like meteors, their way. 

And rived the dark with i>rivate r^y: 

They overleapt the horison's edge, 

Searched with Apollo's privilege; 

Through man, and woman, and sea, and star. 

Saw the dance of nature forward far; 

Through worlds, and races, and terms, and timea^ 

Saw musical order, and pairing rhymes. 

Olympian bards who sung 

Divine ideas below. 
Which always find us young, 

And always keep us so. 

Those who are esteemed umpires of taste are often 
persons who have acquired some knowledge of admired pic- 
tures or sculptures, and have an inclination for whatever 
is elegant; but if you inquire whether they are beautiful 
souls, and whether their own acts are like fair pictures, you 
learn that they are selfish and sensual. Their cultivation 
is local, as if you should rub a log of dry wood in one 
spot to produce fire, all the rest remaining cold. Their 
knowledge of the fine arts is some study of rules and partic- 
ulars, or some limited judgment of color or form, which is 
exercised for amusement or for show. It is a proof of the 
shallowness of the doctrine of beauty, as it lies in the minds 
of our fl,mfl.tpnrH^ that men seem to have lost the perception 
of the iostaajb dependence of form upon soul. There is no 
doctrine of forms in our philosophy. We were put into our 
bodies, as fire is put into a pan, to be carried about; but 
there is no accurate adjustment between the spirit and the 
organ, much less is the latter the germination of the former. 

402 



THE POET 403 

So in regard to other forms, the intellectual men do not 
beheve in any essential dependence of the material world on 
thought and voHtion. Theologians think it a pretty air- 
castle to talk of the spiritual meaning of a ship or a cloud, 
of a city or a contract, but they prefer to come again to 
the solid ground of historical evidence; and even the poets 
are contented with a civil and conformed manner of Uving, 
and to write poems from the fancy, at a safe distance from 
their own experience. But the highest minds of the world 
have never ceased to explore the double meaning, or, shall 
I say, the quadruple, or the centuple, or much more manifold 
meaning, of every sensuous fact: Ornheus . "F.mppHQflpa^ 
gfTffplitiMj Plato, Plutaich, Dante, Swedenborg, and the 
masters of sculpture, picture, and poetry. For we are not 
pans and barrows, nor even porters of the fire and torch- 
bearers, but children of thfi-jfic e^ made of it, and only the 
same divinity transmuted, and at two or three removes, 
when we know least about it. And this hidden truth, that 
the fountains whence all this river of Time, and its creatures, 
flows, are intrinsically ideal and beautiful, draws us to the 
consideration of the nature and functions of the Poet, or 
the man of Beauty, to the means and materials he uses, and 
to the general aspect of his .art. in the present time. 

The breadth of the problem is great, for the poet is rep- 
resentative. He stands among partial men for the complete 
man, and apprises us not of his wealth, but of the common- 
wealth. The young man reveres men of genius, because, to 
speak truly, they are more himself than he is. They receive 
of the soul as he also receives, but they more. Nature en- 
hances her beauty, to the eye of loving men, from their 
belief that the poet is beholding her shows at the same time. 
He is isolated among his contemporaries, by truth and by 
his art, but with this consolation in his pursuits, that they 
will draw all men sooner or later. For all men live by 
truth, and stand in need of expression. In love, in art, in 
avarice, in politics, in labor, in games, we study to utter our 
painful secret. The man is only half himself, the other half 
is his expression. 

Notwithstanding this necessity to be published, adequate 



404 THE POET 

expression is rare. I know not how it is that we need an 
interpreter; but the great majority of men seem to be 
minors, who have not yet come into possession of their own, 
or mutes, who cannot rex)ort the conversation they have had 
with nature. There is no man who does not anticipate a 
supersensual utihty in the sun, and stars, earth, and water. 
These stand and wait to render him a peculiar service. 
But there is some obstruction, or some excess of phlegm in 
our constitution, which does not suffer them to yield the 
due effect. The impressions of nature fall on us too feebly 
to make us artists. Every touch should thrill. Every man 
should be so much an artist, that he could report in con- 
versation what had befallen him. Yet, in our experience, 
the rays or appulses have sufficient force to arrive at the 
senses, but not enough to reach the quick, and compel the 
reproduction of themselves in speech. The poet is the 
person in whom these powers are in balance, the man with- 
out impediment, who sees and handles that which others 
dream of, reverses the whole scale of experience, and is 
representative of man, in virtue of being the largest power 
to receive and to impart. 
For the Universe has three children, bom at one time, 
/ which reappear, under different names, in every system of 
/ thought, whether they be called cause, operation, and effect; 
or, more poetically, JJwiej Pluto, NfPt""^; or, theologically, 
; the Father, the Spirit, and the Son; but which we will call 
 here, the Knower , the Doer, and the Sayer. These stand 
^ respectively for the love of truth, the love of good, 
and the love of beauty. These three are equal. Each 
is that which he is essentially, so that he cannot be 
surmounted or analyzed, and each of these three has the 
power of the others latent in him, and his own patent. 

The poet is the sayer, the namer, and represents beauty. 
He is a sovereign, and stands on the center. For the world 
is not painted, or adorned, but is from the beginning beauti- 
ful; and God has not made some beautiful things, but Beauty 
is the creator of the universe. Therefore the poet is not 
any permissive potentate, but is emperor in his own right. 
Criticism is infested with a cant of materialism, which as- 



THE POET 405 

suines that manual skill and activity is the first merit of 
all men, and disparages such as say and do not, overlooking 
the fact, that some men, namely, poets, are natural sayers, 
sent into the world to the end of expression, and it confounds 
them with those whose province is action, but who quit 
it to imitate the sayers. But Homer's words are as costly 
and admirable to Homer, as Agamemnon's victories are 
to Agamemnon. The poet does not wait for the hero or 
the sage, but, as they act and think primarily, so he writes 
primarily what will and must be spoken, reckoning the 
others, though primaries also, yet, in respect to him, secon- 
daries and servants; as sitters or models in the studio of a 
painter, or as assistants who bring building materials to an 
architect. 

For poetry was all written before time was, and when- 
ever we are so finely organized that we can penetrate into 
that region where the air is music, we hear those primal 
warblings, and attempt to write them down, but we lose 
ever and anon a word, or a verse, and substitute some- 
thing of our own, and thus miswrite the poem. The 
men of more delicate ear write down these cadences more 
faithfully, and these transcripts, though imperfect, become 
the songs of the nations. For nature is as truly beautiful 
as it is good, or as it is reasonable, and must as much appear, 
as it must be done, or be known. Words and deeds are 
quite indifferent modew of the divine energy. Words are 
also actions, and actions are a kind of words. 

The sign and credentials of the poet are, that he announces 
that which no man foretold. He is the true and only doctor; 
he knows and tells; he is the only teller of news, for he was 
present and privy to the appearance which he describes. 
He is a beholder of ideas, and an utterer of the necessary 
and causal. We do not speak now of men of poetical 
talents, or of industry and skill in metre, but of the true 
poet. I took part in a conversation the other day, con- 
cerning a recent writer of lyrics, a man of subtle mind, 
whose head appeared to be a music-box of delicate tunes 
and rhythms, and whose skill, and command of language, 
we could not sufficiently praise. But when the question 



406 THE POET 

arose, whether he were not only a l3nist, but a poet, we 
were obliged to confess that he is plainly a contemi)orary, 
not an eternal man. He does not stand out of our low 
limitations, like a Chimborazo imder the line, running 
up from the torrid base through all the climates of the globe, 
with belts of the herbage of every latitude on its high and 
mottled sides; but this genius is the landscape garden of a 
modem house, adorned with fountains and statues, with 
well-bred men and women standing and sitting in the walks 
and terraces. We hear, through all the varied music, the 
ground-tone of conventional life. Our poets are men of 
talents who sing, and not the children of music. The 
argument is secondary, the finish of the verses is primary. 
For it is not metres, but a metre-making argument, that 
makes a poem, — a thought so passionate and alive, that, 
like the spirit of a plant or an animal, it has an architecture 
of its own, and adorns nature with a new thing. The 
thought and the form are equal in the order of time, but 
in the order of genesis the thought is prior to the form. 
The poet has a new thought: he has a whole new experience 
to unfold; he will tell us how it was with him, and all men 
will be the riche. in his fortune. The exi)erience of each 
new age requires a new confession, and the world seems 
always waiting for its poet. I remember, when I was yoimg, 
how much I was moved one morning by tidings that genius 
had appeared in a youth who sat near me at table. He 
had left his work, and gone rambling none knew whither, 
and had written hundreds of lines, but could not tell whether 
that which was in him was therein told: he could tell nothing 
but that all was changed — ^man, beast, heaven, earth, and 
sea. How gladly we listened! how credulous! Society 
seemed to be compromised. We sat in the aurora of a sun- 
rise which was to put out all the stars. Boston seemed to 
be at twice the distance it had the night before, or 
was much farther than that. Rome, — ^what was Rome? 
Plutarch and Shakspeare were in the yellow leaf, and Homer 
no more should be heard of. It is much to know that poetry 
has been written this very day, under this very roof, by your 
^de. What! that wonderful spirit has not expired! these 



THE POET 407 

stony moments are still sparkling and animated! I had 
fancied that the oracles were all silent, and nature had 
spent her fires, and behold ! all night, from every pore, these 
fine auroras have been streaming. Every one has some in- 
terest in the advent of the poet, and no one knows how 
much it may concern him. We know that the secret of the* 
world is profound, but who or what shall be our interpreter, 
we know not. A mountain ramble, a new style of face, a 
new person, may put the key into our hands. Of course, 
the value of genius to us is in the veracity of its report. 
Talent may frolic and juggle; genius realizes and adds. 
Mankind, in good earnest, have gone so far in understand- 
ing themselves and their work, and the foremost watchman 
on the peak announces his news. It is the truest word 
ever spoken, and the phrase will be the fittest, most musical, 
and the unerring voice of the world for the time. 

All that we call sacred history attests that the birth of 
a poet is the principal event in chronology. Man, never 
so often deceived, still watches for the arrival of a brother 
who can hold him steady to a truth, until he has made it 
his own. With what joy I begin to read a poem, which I 
confide in as an inspiration! And now my chains are to be 
broken; I shall mount above these clouds and opaque airs 
in which I live,— opaque, though they seem transparent, — 
and from the heaven of truth I shall see and comprehend 
my relations. That will reconcile me to life, and renovate 
nature, to see trifles animated by a tendency, and to know 
what I am doing. Life will no more be a noise; now I shall 
see men and women, and know the signs by which they may 
be discerned from fools and satans. This day shall be 
better than my birth-day: then I became an animal: now 
I am invited into pure science. Such is the hope, but the 
fruition is postponed. Oftener it falls, that this winged 
man, who will carry me into the heaven, whirls me into the 
clouds, then leaps and frisks about with me from cloud to 
cloud, still affirming that he is bound heavenward; and I, 
being myself a novice, am slow in perceiving that he does 
not know the way into the heavens, and is merely bent 
^tot \ siipuld a^iuire his slqll to rise, like a fowl or a flying- 



408 THE POET 

fish, a little way from the ground or the water; but the all- 
piercing, all-feeding, and ocular air of heaven, that man 
shall never inhabit. I tumble down again soon into my old 
nooks, and lead the life of exaggerations as before, and have 
lost my faith in the possibiUty of any guide who can lead 
me thither where I would be. 

But leaving these victims of vanity, let us, with new hope, 
observe how nature, by worthier impulses, has insured the 
poet's fidelity to his office of announcing and affirming, by 
the beauty of things, which becomes a new and higher beauty 
when expressed. Nature offers all her creatures to him as 
a picture-language. Being used as a type, a second won- 
derful value appears in the object, far better than its old 
value, as the carpenter's stretched cord, if you hold your 
ear close enough, is musical in the breeze. "Things more 
excellent than every image," says Jamblichus, "are ex- 
pressed through images." Things admit of being used as 
symbols, because nature is a symbol, in the whole, and in 
every part. Every line we can draw in the sand has ex- 
pression; and there is no body without its spirit or genius. 
All form is an effort of character; all condition, of the 
quahty of the life; all harmony, of health; (and, for this 
reason, a perception of beauty should be sympathetic, or 
proper, only to the good). The beautiful rests on the 
foundations of the necessary. The soul makes the body, 
as the wise Spenser teaches : — 

"So every spirit, as it is most pure, 
And hath in it the more of heavenly light. 
So it the fairer body doth procure 
To habit in, and it more fairly dight, 
With cheerful grace and amiable sight. 
For, of the soul, the body form doth take, 
For soul is form, and doth the body make." 

Here we find ourselves, suddenly, not in the pleasant walks 
of critical speculation, but in a holy place, and should go 
very warily and reverently. We stand before the secret 
of the world, — there where Being passes into Appearance, 
and Unity into Variety. 

The Universe is the extemization of the soul. Wher- 
ever the life is, that bursts into appearance around it. Our 



THE POET 409 

science is sensual, and therefore superficial. The earth, 
and the heavenly bodies, physics, and chemistry, we sen- 
sually treat, as if they were self-existent; but these are the 
retinue of that Being we have. "The mighty heaven/' 
says Proclus, "exhibits, in its transfigurations, clear images 
of the splendor of intellectual perceptions; being moved in 
conjunction with the unapparent periods of intellectual 
natures." Therefore, science always goes abreast with the 
just elevation of the man, keeping step with religion and 
metaphysics; or, the state of science is an index of our self- 
knowledge. Since every thing in nature answers to a moral 
power, if any phenomenon remains brute and dark, it is 
because the corresponding faculty in the observer is not 
yet active. No wonder, then, if these waters be so 
deep, that we hover over them with a religious regard. 
The beauty of the fable proves the importance of the sense, 
to the poet, and to all others; or, if you please, every man 
is so far a poet as to be susceptible of these enchantments 
of nature: for all men have the thoughts of which the imi- 
verse is the celebration. I find that the fascination resides 
in the symbol. Who loves nature? Who does not? Is it 
only poets, and men of leisure and cultivation, who live with 
her? No; but also hunters, farmers, grooms, and butchers, 
though they express their affection in theijr choice of life, 
and not in their choice of words. The writer wonders 
what the coachman or the hunter values in riding, in horses, 
and dogs. It is not superficial quahties. When you talk 
with him, he holds these at as slight a rate as you. His 
worship is sympathetic: he has no definitions, but he is 
conmianded in nature, by the hving power which he feels to 
be there ^ sent. No imitation, or playing of these things, 
would content him; he loves the earnest of the north-wind, 
of rain, of stone, and wood, and iron. A beauty not ex- 
plicable is dearer than a beauty which we can see to the 
end of. It is nature the symbol, nature certifying the super- 
natural, body overflowed by life, which he worships with 
coarse, but sincere rites. 

The inwardness, and mystery, of this attachment, drives 
men of every class to the use of emblems. The schools 



410 THE POET 

of poets, and philosophers, are not more intoidcated with 
their symbols, than the populace with theirs. In our poh- 
tical parties, compute the power of badges and emblems. 
See the great ball which they roll from Baltimore to Bimker 
hill! In the political processions, Lowell goes in a loom, 
and Lynn in a shoe, and Salem in a ship. Witness the 
cider-barrel, the log-cabin, the hickory-stick, the palmetto, 
and all the cognizances of party. See the power of national 
emblems. Some stars, lilies, leopards, a crescent, a lion, 
an eagle, or other figure, which came into credit God knows 
how, on an old rag of bunting, blowing in the wind, on a fort, 
at the ends of the earth, shall make the blood tingle under 
the rudest, or the most conventional exterior. The people 
fancy they hate poetry, and they are all poets and mystics! 
Beyond this universality of the symbolic language, we are 
apprised of the divineness of this superior use of things, 
(whereby the world is a temple, whose walls are covered 
with emblems, pictures, and commandments of the Deity,) 
in this, that there is no fact in nature which does not carry 
the whole sense of nature; and the distinctions which we 
make in events, and in affairs, of low and high, honest and 
base, disappear when nature is used as a symbol. Thou^t 
makes every thing fit for use. The vocabulary of an omnis- 
cient man would embrace words and images excluded from 
polite conversation. What would be base, or even obscene, 
to the obscene, becomes illustrious, spoken in a new con- 
nection of thought. The piety of the Hebrew prophets 
purges their grossness. The circimicision is an example of 
the power of poetry to raise the low and offensive. Small 
and mean things serve as well as great symbols. The 
meaner the tjrpe by which a law is expressed, the more pun- 
gent it is, and the more lasting in the memories of men : just 
as we choose the smallest box, or case, in which any need- 
ful utensil can be carried. Bare lists of words are foimd 
suggestive to an imaginative and excited mind; as it is re- 
lated of Lord Chatham, that he was accustomed to read in 
Baily's Dictionary when he was preparing to speak in Par- 
liament. The poorest experience is rich enough for all the 
purposes of expressing thought. Why covet a knowledge 



THE POET 411 

of new facts? Day and night, house and garden, a few 
books, a few actions, serve us as well as would all trades and ^ 

all spectacles. We are far from having exhausted the 
significance of the few symbols we use. We can come to use 
them yet with a terrible simplicity. It does not need 
that a poem should be long. Every word was once a poem. 
Every new relation is a new word. Also, we use defects and 
deformities to a sacred purpose, — so expressing our sense 
that the evils of the world are such only to the evil eye. 
In the old mythology, mythologists observe, defects are 
ascribed to divine natures, as lameness to Vulcan, blindness 
to Cupid, and the like, to signify exuberances. 

It is dislocation and detachment from the life of God that 
makes things ugly, and the poet, who re-attaches things to 
nature and the Whole, — re-attaching even artificial things, 
and violations of nature, to nature, by a deeper insight, — 
disposes very easily of the most disagreeable facts. Readers 
of poetry see the factory-village, and the railway, and fancy 
that the poetry of the landscape is broken up by these, — 
for these works of art are not yet consecrated in their read- 
ing; but the poet sees them fall within the great order not 
less than the bee-hive, or the spider's geometrical web. Nat- 
ure adopts them very fast into her vital circles, and the 
gliding train of cars she loves like her own. Besides, in a 
centered mind, it signifies nothing how many mechanical 
inventions you exhibit. Though you add mdllions, and 
never so surprising, the fact of mechanics has not gained a 
grain's weight. The spiritual fact remains imalterable, 
by many or by few particulars; as no mountain is of any 
appreciable height to break the curve of the sphere. A 
shrewd country-boy goes to the city for the first time, and 
the complacent citizen is not satisfied with his little wonder. 
It is not that he does not see all the fine houses, and know 
that he never saw such before, but he disposes of them as 
easily as the poet finds place for the railway. The chief 
value of the new fact, is to enhance the great and constant 
fact of Life, which can dwarf any and every circumstance, 
and to which the belt of wampum, and the conmierce of 
America, are alike. 



412 THE POET 

The world being thus put under the mind for verb and 
noun, the poet is he who can articulate it. For, though 
hfe is great, and fascinates, and absorbs, — and though all 
men are inteUigent of the symbols through which it is 
named, — ^yet they cannot originally use them. We are 
symbols, and inhabit symbols; workmen, work, and tools, 
words and things, birth and death, all are emblems; 
but we sympathize with the symbols, and, being infatuated 
with the economical uses of things, we do not know 
that they are thoughts. The poet, by an ulterior 
intellectual perception, gives them a power which 
makes their old use forgotten, and puts eyes, and a 
tongue, into every dumb and inanimate object. He per- 
ceives the independence of the thought on the sym- 
bol, — ^the stabihty of the thought, the accidency and 
fugitiveness of the symbol. As the eyes of LyncsBus were 
said to see through the earth, so the poet turns the world to 
glass, and shows us all things in their right series and pro- 
cession. For, through that better perception, he stands 
one step nearer to things, and sees the flowing or meta- 
morphosis; perceives that thought is multiform; that within 
the form of every creature is a force impelling it to ascend 
into a higher form: and, following with his eyes the life, 
uses the forms which express that life, and so his si)eech flows 
with the flowing of nature. All iShe facts of the animal 
economy, sex, nutriment, gestation, birth, growth, are sym- 
bols of the passage of the world into the soul of man, to 
suffer there a change, and reappear a new and higher fact. 
He uses forms according to the life, and not according to the 
form. This is true science. The poet alone knows astron- 
omy, chemistry, vegetation, and animation; for he does 
not stop at these facts, but employs them as signs. He 
knows why the field of space was strown with these flowers 
we call Sims and moons and stars; why the great deep is 
adorned with animals, with men, and gods; for, in every 
word he speaks he rides on them as the horses of thought. 

By virtue of this science the poet is the Namer or Lan- 
guage-maker, naming things sometimes after their ap- 
pearance, sometimes after their essence, and giving to 



THE POET -413 

every one its own name and not another's there- 
by rejoicing the intellect, which delights in detachment or 
boundary. The poets made all the words, and therefore lan- 
guage is the archives of history, and, if we must say it, a 
sort of tomb of the muses. For, though the origin of most 
of our words is forgotten, each word was at first a stroke of 
genius, and obtained currency, because for the moment it 
symbolized the world to the first speaker and to the hearer. 
The etymologist finds the deadest word to have been once a 
brilliant picture. Language is fossil poetry. As the lime- 
stone of the continent consists of infinite masses of the 
shells of animalcules, so language is made up of images, or 
tropes, which now, in their secondary use, have long ceased 
to remind us of their poetic origin. But the poet names the 
thing because he sees it, or comes one step nearer to it than 
any other. This expression, or naming, is not art, but a 
second nature, grown out of the first, as a leaf out of a 
tree. What we call nature, is a certain self-regulated 
motion or change; and nature does all things, by her own 
hands, and does not leave another to baptize her, but 
baptizes herself; and this through the metamorphosis 
again. I remember that a certain poet described it to me 
thus: 

Genius is the activity which repairs the decays of things, 
whether wholly or partly of a material and finite kind. 
Nature, through all Her kingdoms, insures herself. Nobody 
cares for planting the poor fungus : so she shakes down from 
the gills of one agaric, countless spores any one of which, 
being preserved, transmits new billions of spores to-morrow, 
or next day. The new agaric of this hour has a chance 
which the old one had not. This atom of seed is thrown into 
a new place, not subject to the accidents which destroyed 
its parent two rods off. She makes a man: and having 
brought him to ripe age, she will no longer run the risk of 
losing this wonder at a blow, but she detaches from him a 
new self, that the kind may be safe from accidents to which 
the individual is exposed. So when the soul of the poet has 
come to ripeness of thought, sb^ detaches and sends away 



414 THE POET 

from it its poems or songs, — s, fearless, sleepless, deathless 
progeny, which is not exposed to the accidents of the king- 
dom of time: a fearless, vivacious offspring, clad with wings 
(such was the virtue of the soul out of which they came), 
which carry them fast and far, and infix them irrevocably into 
the hearts of men. These wings are the beauty of the poet's 
soul. The songs, thus flying immortal from their mortal jwir- 
ent, are pursued by clamorous flights of censures, which swarm 
in far greater numbers, and threaten to devour them; but 
these last are not winged. At the end of a very short leap they 
fall plump down, and rot, having received from the souls 
out of which they came no beautiful wings. But the melo- 
dies of the poet ascend, and leap, and pierce into the deeps 
of infinite time. 

So far the bard taught me, using his freer speech. But 
nature has a higher end, in the production of new individuals, 
than security, namely, ascension, or, the passage of the soul 
iQto higher forms. I knew, in my younger days, Ihe sculp- 
tor who made the statue of the youth which stands in the 
public garden. He was, as I remember, unable to tell, 
directly, what made him happy, or unhappy, but by wonder- 
ful indirections he could tell. He rose one day, according 
to his habit, before the dawn, and saw the morning break, 
grand as the eternity out of which it came, and, for many 
days after, he strove to express this tranquillity, and, lo! 
his chisel had fashioned out of marble, the form of a beauti- 
ful youth, Phosphorus, whose aspect is such, that, it is 
said, all persons who look on it become silent. The poet 
also resigns himself to his mood, and that thought which 
agitated him is expressed, but alter idem, in a manner 
totally new. The expression is organic, or, the new type 
which things themselves take when liberated. As, in the 
sun, objects paint their images on the retina of the eye, so 
they, sharing the aspiration of the whole universe, tend to 
paint a far more delicate copy of their essence in his mind. 
Like the metamorphosis of things into higher organic 
forms, is their change into melodies. Over everything 
stands its dsemon, or soul, and as the form of the thing is 
reflected by the eye, so the soul of tb^ tiling is reflected hy 



THE POET 415 

a melody. The sea, the mountain-ridge, Niagara, and every 
flower-bi3d, pre-exist, or super-exist in pre-cantations, which 
sail like odors in the air, and when any man goes by with an 
ear sufficiently fine, he over-hears them, and endeavors to 
write down the notes, without diluting or depraving them. And 
herein is the legitimation of criticism, in the mind's faith, 
that the poems are a corrupt version of some text in nature, 
with which they ought to be made tally. A rhyme in one 
of our sonnets should not be less pleasing than the iterated 
nodes of a sea-shell, or the resembling difference of a group 
of flowers. The pairing of the birds is an idyl, not tedious 
as our idyls are; a tempest is a rough ode without falsehood 
or rant; a siunmer, with its harvest sown, reaped, and 
stored, is an epic song, subordinating how many admirably 
executed parts. Why should not the symmetry and truth 
that modulate these, glide into our spirits, and we partici- 
pate the invention of nature? 

This insight, which expresses itself by what is called 
Imagination, is a very high sort of seeing, which does not 
come by study, but by the intellect being where and what 
it sees, by sharing the path, or circuit of things through 
forms, and so making them translucid to others. The path 
of things is silent. Will they suffer a speaker to go with 
them? A spy they will not suffer; a lover, a poet, is the 
transcendency of their own nature, — him they will suffer. 
The condition of true naming, on the poet's part, is his 
resigning himself to the divine aura which breathes through 
forms, and accompanying that. 

It is a secret which every intellectual man quickly learns, 
that, beyond the energy of his possessed and conscious in- 
tellect, he is capable of a new energy (as of an intellect 
doubled on itself), by abandonment to the nature of things; 
that, beside his privacy of power as an individual man, 
there is a great public power, on which he can draw, by 
unlocking, at all risks, his himian doors, and suffering the 
ethereal tides to roll and circulate through him: then he is 
caught up into the life of the Universe, his speech is thunder, 
his thought is law, and his words are universally intelligible 
as the plants and animals. The poet knows that he speaks 



416 THE POET 

adequately, then only when he speaks somewhat wildly, or^ 
"with the flower of the mind;" not with the intellect, used 
as an organ, but with the intellect released from all service, 
and suffered to take its direction from its celestial life; or, 
as the ancients were wont to express themselves, not with 
intellect alone, but with the intellect inebriated by nectar. 
As the traveller who has lost his way, throws his reins on his 
horse's neck, and trusts to the instinct of the animal to find 
his road, so must we do with the divine animal who carries 
us through the world. For if in any manner we can stimu^ 
late this instinct, new passages are opened for us into nature, 
the mind flows into and through things hardest and highest, 
and the metamorphosis is possible. 

This is the reason why bards love wine, mead, narcotics, 
coffee, tea, opium, the fumes of sandal-wood and tobacco, 
or whatever other species of animal exhilaration. All men 
avail themselves of such means as they can, to add this 
extraordinary power to their normal powers; and to this 
end they prize conversation, music, pictures, sculpture, 
dancing, theatres, travelling, war, mobs, fires, gaming, poli- 
tics, or love, or science, or animal intoxication, which, are 
several coarser or finer gt^osi-mechanical sul^titutes for 
the true nectar, which is the ravishment of the intellect by 
coming nearer to the fact. These are auxiliaries to the 
centrifugal tendency of a man, to his passage out into free 
space, and they help him to escape the custody of that body 
in which he is pent up, and of that jail-yard of individual 
relations in which he is enclosed. Hence, a great number of 
such as were professionally expressers of Beauty, as paint- 
ers, poets, musicians, and actors, have been more than 
others wont to lead a life of pleasure and indulgence; all 
but the few who received the true nectar; and, as it was 
a spurious mode of attaining freedom, as it was an eman- 
cipation not into the heavens, but into the freedom of 
baser places, they were punished for that advantage they 
won, by a dissipation and deterioration. But never can 
any advantage be taken of nature by a trick. The spirit 
of the world, the great calm presence of the creator, comes 
not forth to the sorceries of opium or of wine. The sub- 



THE POET 417 

lime vision comes to the pure and simple soul in a clean 
and chaste body. That which we owe to narcotics is not 
an inspiration, but some counterfeit excitement and fury. 
Milton says, that the lyric poet may drink wine and live 
generously, but the epic poet, he who shall sing of the gods, 
and their descent unto men, must drink water out of a wood- 
en bowl. For poetry is not "Devil's wine," but God's wine. 
It is with this as it is with toys. We fill the hands and nurs- 
eries of our children with all manner of dolls, drums, and 
horses, withdrawing their eyes from the plain face and suf- 
ficing objects of nature, the sun, the moon, the animals, 
the water, and stones, which shoiild be their toys. So the 
poet's habit of living should be set on a key so low and 
plain, that the common influences should delight him. His 
cheerfulness should be the gift of the sunlight; the air 
should suffice for his inspiration, and he should be tipsy with 
water. That spirit which suffices quiet hearts, which seems 
to come forth to such from every dry knoll of sere grass, 
from every pine-stmnp, and half-imbedded stone, on which 
the dull March sun shines, comes forth to the poor and 
himgry, and such as are of simple taste. If thou fill thy 
brain with Boston and New York, with fashion and covet- 
ousness, and wilt stimulate thy jaded senses with wine and 
French coffee, thou shalt find no radiance of wisdom in 
the lonely waste of the pine-woods. 

If the imagination intoxicates the poet, it is not inactive 
in other men. The metamorphosis excites in the beholder 
an emotion of joy. The use of symbols has a certain power 
of emancipation and exhilaration for all men. We seem 
to be touched by a wand, which makes us dance and run 
about happily, like children. We We like persons who come 
out of a cave or cellar into the open air. This is the effect 
on us of tropes, fables, oracles, and all poetic forms. Poets 
are thus liberating gods. Men have really got a new sense, 
and found within their world another world, or nest of 
worlds; for, the metamorphosis once seen, we divine that 
it does not stop. I will not now consider how much this 
makes the charm of algebra and the mathematics, which also 
have their tropes, but it is felt in every definition; as, when 



118 THE POET 

Aristotle defines space to be an immovable vessel, in \diich 
things are contained; or, when Plato defines a line to be a 
■flowing point; or, figure to be bomid of a solid; and 
many the like. What a joyful sense of freedom we have, 
when Vitruvius announces the old opinion of artists, 
that no architect can build any house well who does not 
know something of anatomy. When Socrates, in Charmides, 
tells us that the soul is cured of its maladies by certain in- 
jcantations, and that these incantations are beautiful reasons, 
from which temperance is generated in souls; when Plato 
X»Ils the world an animal; and Timaeus affirms that plants 
also are animals; or affirms a man to be a heavenly tree, 
growing with his root, which is his head, upward; and, 
as George Chapman, foUowing him, writes,— 

*'So in our tree of maa, whose nervie root 
Springs in his top"; 

when Orpheus speaks of hoariness as "that whit^ flower 
which marks extreme old age;" when Proolus calls the uni- 
verise the statue of the intellect; when Chaucer, in his 
praise q( "Gentilesse," compares good blood in mean con- 
dition to fire, which, though carried to the darkest house be- 
twixt this and the mount of Caucasus, will yet hold its nat- 
ural office^ and bum as bright as if twenty thousand men did 
it behold; when John saw, in the apocalypse, the ruin of the 
world through evil, and the stars fall from heaven, as the 
fig-tree casteth her imtimely fruit; when iEsop reports the 
whole catalogue of common daily relations through the mas- 
querade of birds and beasts; — ^we take the cheerful hint of 
the immortality of our essence, and its versatile habits and 
escapes, as when the gypsies say, "it is in vain to hang them, 
they cannot die." 

The poets are thus liberating gods. The ancient British 
bards had for the title of their order, "Those who are free 
throughout the world." They are free, and they make free. 
An imaginative book renders us much more service at first, by 
stimulating us through its tropes, than afterward, when we 
arrive at the precise sense of the author. I think nothing is 
61 any value in books, excepting the transcendental and 



THE POET 419 

extraordinary. If' a man is inflamed and carried away by 
his thought, to that degree that he forgets the authors and 
the public, and heeds only this one dream, which holds him 
like an insanity, let me read his paper, and you may have all 
the arguments, and histories, and criticism. All the value 
which attaches to Pythagoras, Paracelsus, Cornelius Agrippa, 
Cardan, Kepler, Swedenborg, Schelling, Oken, or any other 
who introduces questionable facts into his cosmogony, as 
angels, devils, magic, astrology, palmistry, mesmerism, and 
80 on, is the certificate we have of departure from routine, 
and that here is a new witness. That also is the best success 
in conversation, the magic of liberty, which puts the world, 
like a ball, in our hands. How cheap even the liberty then 
seems; how mean to study, when an emotion conmiunicates 
to the intellect the power to sap and upheave nature: how 
great the perspective! nations, times, systems, enter and dis- 
appear, like threads in tapestry of large figure and many 
colors; dream delivers us to dream, and, while the dnmken- 
ness lasts, we will sell our bed, our philosophy, our religion, 
in our opulence. 

There is good reason why we should prize this liberation. 
The fate of the poor shepherd; who, blinded and lost in the 
snow-storm, perishes in a drift within a few feet of his 
cottage door, is an emblem of the state of man. On the 
brink of the waters of life and truth, we are miserably 
dying. The inaccessibleness of every thought but that we 
are in, is wonderful. What if you come near to it, — ^you 
are as remote when you are nearest as when you are farthest. 
Every thought is also a prison; every heaven is also a prison. 
Therefore we love the poet, the inventor, who in any form, 
whether in an ode, or in an action, or in looks and be- 
havior, has yielded us a new thought. He imlocks our 
chains, and admits us to a new scene. 

This emancipation is dear to all men; and the power to 
impart it, as it must come from greater depth and scope of 
thought, is a measure of intellect. Therefore all books of 
the imagination endure, all which ascend to that truth, 
that the writer sees nature beneath him, and uses it as 
his exponent. Every verse or sentence, possessing this 



420 THE POET 

virtue, will take care of its own immortality. The reli- 
gions of the world are the ejaculations of a few imaginative 
men. 

But the qiiahty of the imagination is to flow, and not to 
freeze. The poet did not stop at the color, or the form, 
but read their meaning; neither may he rest in this meaning, 
but he makes the same objects exponents of his new thought. 
Here is the difference betwixt the poet and the mystic, that 
the last nails a symbol to one sense, which was a true sense 
for a moment, but soon becomes old and false. For all 
symbols are fluxional; all language is vehicular and tran- 
sitive, and is good, as ferries and horses are, for conveyance, 
not as farms and houses are, for homestead. Mysticism 
consists in the mistake of an accidental and individual sym- 
bol for a universal one. The morning-redness happens to 
be the favorite meteor to the eyes of Jacob Behmen, and 
comes to stand to him for truth and faith; and, he believes, 
it should stand for the same realities to every reader. But 
the first reader prefers as naturally the symbol of a mother 
and child, or a gardener and his bulb, or a jeweller x)oli8hiDg 
a gem. Either of these, or of a myriad more, are equally 
good to the person to whom they are significant. Only they 
must be held lightly, and be very willingly translated into 
the equivalent terms which others use. And the mystic must 
be steadily told, — ^AU that you say is just as true without the 
tedious use of that symbol as with it. Let us have a little 
algebra, instead of this trite rhetoric, — universal signs, in- 
stead of these village symbols, — and we shall both be gain- 
ers. The history of hierarchies seems to show, that all 
religious error consisted in making the symbol too stark and 
solid, and, at last, nothing but an excess of the organ of 
language. 

Swedenborg, of all men in the recent ages, stands 
eminently for the translator of nature into thought. I do 
not know the man in history to whom things stood so uni- 
formly for words. Before him the metamorphosis contin- 
ually plays. Every thing on which his eye rests, obeys the 
impulses of moral nature. The figs become grapes whilst 
he eats them. When some of his angels affirmed a trutih, the 



THE POET 421 

Idurel twig which they held blossomed in their hands. The 
noise which at a distance, appeared like gnashing and thump* 
ing, on coming nearer was found to be the voice of disputants. 
The men, in one of his visions, seen in heavenly light, ap- 
peared like dragons, and seemed in darkness; but to each 
other they appeared as men, and, when the light from heaven 
shone into their cabin, they complained of the darkness, 
and were compelled to shut the window that they might 

There was this perception in him, which makes the poet 
or seer, an object of awe and terror, namely, that the same 
man, or society of men, may wear one aspect to themselves 
and their companions, and a different aspect to higher in- 
telligences. Certain priests, whom he describes as convers- 
ing very learnedly together, appeared to the children, who 
were at some distance, like dead horses; and many the like 
misappearances. And instantly the mind inquires, whether 
these fishes under the bridge, yonder oxen in the pasture, 
those dogs in the yard, are immutably fishes, oxen, and dogs, 
or only so appear to me, and perchance to themselves appear 
upright men; and whether I appear as a man to all eyes. 
The Brahmins and P3rthagoras propoimded the same question, 
and if any poet has witnessed the transformation, he doubt- 
less found it in harmony with various experiences. We 
have all seen changes as considerable in wheat and cater- 
pillars. He k the poet, and shall draw us with love and 
terror, who sees, through the flowing vest, the firm nature, 
and can declare it. 

I look in vain for the poet whom I describe. We do not, 
with sufficient plainness, or sufficient profoundness, address 
ourselves to life, nor dare we chaunt our own times and 
social circumstance. If we filled the day with bravery, we 
should not shrink from celebrating it. Time and nature 
yield us many gifts, but not yet the timely man, the new 
religion, the reconciler, whom all things await. Dante's 
praise is, that he dared to write his autobiography in 
colossal cipher, or into universality. We have yet had no 
genius in America, with tjrrannous eye, which knew the 
value of our incomparable materials, and saw, in the bar- 



422 THE POET 

barism and materialism of the times, another carnival of the 
same gods whose picture it so much admires in Homer; 
then in the middle age; then in Calvinism. Banks and 
tariffs, the newspaper and caucus, methodism and imitarian- 
ism, are flat and dull to dull people, but rest on the same 
foundations of wonder as the town of Troy and the temple 
of Delphi and are as swiftly passing away. Our logrolling, 
our stumps and their politics, our fisheries, our Negroes, 
and Indians, our boats, and our repudiations, the wrath of 
rogues, and the pusillanimity of honest men, the northern 
trade, the southern planting, the western clearing, Oregon 
and Texas, are yet imsung. Yet America is a poem in our 
eyes; its ample geography dazzles the imagination, and it 
will not wait long for metres. If I have not found that ex- 
cellent combination of gifts in my countrjrmen which I 
seek, neither could I aid myself to fix the idea of the poet 
by reading now and then in Chalmers's collection of five 
centuries of English poets. These are wits, more than poets, 
though there have been poets among them. But when we 
adhere to the ideal of the poet^ we have our difficulties even 
with Milton and Homer. Milton is too Uterary, and 
Homer too literal and historical. 

But I am not wise enough for a national criticism, and 
must use the old largeness a httle longer, to discharge my 
errand from the muse to the poet concerning his art. 

Art is the path of the creator to his work. The paths, 
or methods, are ideal and eternal, though few men ever see 
them, — ^not the artist himself, for years, or for a lifetime, 
unless he come into the conditions. The painter, the sculp- 
tor, the composer, the epic rhapsodist, the orator, all -p&T- 
take one desire, namely, to express themselves symmetrically, 
and abundantly, not dwarfishly and fragmentarily. They 
found or put themselves in certain conditions, as, the painter 
and sculptor before some impressive human figures; the 
orator, into the assembly of the people; and the others, in 
such scenes as each has found exciting to his intellect; and 
each presently feels the new desire. He hears a voice, he 
sees a beckoning. Then he is apprised, with wonder, what 
herds of daemons hem him in. He can no more rest; he 



THE POET 423 

says, with the old painter, "By God, it is in me? and must 
go forth of me." He pursues a beauty, half seen, which flies 
before him. The poet pours out verses in every solitude. 
Most of the things he says are conventional, no doubt; but 
by and by he says something which is original and beautiful. 
That charms him. He would say nothing else but such 
things. In our way of talking, we say, "That is yours, this 
is mine;" but the poet knows well that it is not his; that it 
is as strange and beautiful to him as to you; he would fain 
hear the like eloquence at length. Once having tasted this im- 
mortal ichor, he cannot have enough of it, and, as an ad- 
mirable creative power exists in these intellections, it is of 
the last importance that these things get spoken. What a 
little of all we know is said! What drops of all the sea of 
our science are baled up! and by what accident it is that 
these are exposed, when so many secrets sleep in nature! 
Hence the necessity of speech and song; hence these throbs 
and heart-beatings in the orator, at the door of the assembly, 
to the end, namely, that thought may be ejaculated as Logos, 
or Word. 

Doubt not, O poet, but persist. Say, "It is in me, and 
shall out." Stand there, balked and dumb, stuttering and 
stammering, hissed and hooted, stand and strive, imtil, at 
last,, rage draw out of thee that dream-power which every 
night shows thee is thine own; — ^a power transcending all 
limit and privacy, and by virtue of which a man is the 
conductor of the whole river of electricity. Nothing walks, 
or creeps, or grows, or exists, which must not in turn arise 
and walk before him as exponent of his meaning. Comes 
he to that power, his genius is no longer exhaustible. All 
the creatures, by pairs and by tribes, pour into his mind as 
into a Noah's ark, to come forth again to people a 
new world. This is like the stock of air for our respiration, 
or for the combustion of our fire-place, not a measure of 
gallons, but the entire atmosphere if wanted. And therefore 
the rich poets, as Homer, Chaucer, Shakspeare, and Raphael, 
have obviously no limits to their works, except the limits of 
their lifetime, and resemble a mirror carried through the 
street, ready to render an image of every created thing. 



424 THE POET 

O poet ! a new nobility is conferred in groves and pastures, 
and not in castles, or by the sword-blade, any longer. The 
conditions are hard, but equal. Thou shalt leave the world, 
and know the muse only. Thou shalt not know any longer 
the tinae, customs, graces, poUtics, or opinions of men, but 
shalt take all from the muse. For the time of towns is 
tolled from the world by funeral chimes, but in nature the 
universal hours are counted by succeeding tribes of animals 
and plants, and by growth of joy on joy. God wills also 
that thou abdicate a manifold and duplex life, and that thou 
be content that others speak for thee. Others shall be thy 
gentlemen, and shall represent all courtesy and worldly life 
for thee; others shall do the great and resounding actions 
also. Thou shalt lie close hid with nature^ and canst not 
be afforded to the Capitol or the Exchange. The world is 
full of renimciations and apprenticeships, and this is thine; 
thou must pass for a fool and a churl for a long season. 
This is the screen and sheath in which Pan has protected his 
well-beloved flower, and thou shalt be known only to thine 
own, and they shall console thee with tenderest love. And 
thou shalt not be able to rehearse the names of thy friends 
in thy verse, for an old shame before the holy ideal. And 
this is the reward: that the ideal shall be real to thee, and 
the impressions of the actual world shall fall like summer 
rain, copious, but not troublesome, to thy invulnerable 
essence. yThou shalt have the whole land for thy park and 
manor, mb sea for thy bath and navigation, without tax and 
without envy; the woods and the rivers thou shalt own; and 
thou shalt possess that wherein others are only tenants and 
boarders. Thou true land-lord! sea-lord! air-lord! Wher- 
ever snow falls, or water flows, or birds fly, wherever day 
and night meet in twilight, wherever the blue heavej^ is 
'hung by clouds, or sown with stars, wherever are fpitins 
with transparent boundaries, wherever are outlets into 
celestial space, wherever is danger, and awe and love, there 
is Beauty, plenteous as rain, shed for thee, and though thou 
shouldst walk the world over, thou shalt not be able to 
find a condition inopportime or ignobleX 



THE YOUNG AMERICAN 

A Lecture read before the Mercantile Library Association, 

Boston, February 7, 1844. 

Gentlemen, 

It is remarkable, that our people have their intellectual 
culture from one country, and their duties from another. 
This false state of things is newly in a way to be corrected. 
America is beginning to assert itself to the senses and to the 
imagination of her children, and Europe is receding in the 
fame degree. This their reaction on education gives a new 
importance to the internal improvements and to the pohtics 
of the country. Who has not been stimulated to reflection 
by the facilities now in progress of construction for travel 
and the transportation of goods in the United States? 

This rage for road building is beneficent for America, 
where vast distance is so main a consideration in our do- 
mestic politics and trade, inasmuch as the great political 
promise of the invention is to hold the Union staimch, whose 
days seemed already numbered by the mere inconvenience 
of transporting representatives, judges, and officers across 
such tedious distances of land and water. Not only is dis- 
tance annihilated, but when, as now, the locomotive and the 
steamboat, like enormous i^uttles, shoot every day across 
the thousand various threads of national descent and 
employment, and bind them fast in one web, an hourly as- 
simil/ion goes forward, and there is no danger that local 
peculiarities and hostilities should be preserved. 

1. But 'I hasten to speak of the utility of these im- 
provements in creating an American sentiment. An un - 
looked-f or. consequence of the railroad^w the increased. ac- 
quaiiitiance rt~'has~~^ven t£e"Sinerican people with the 

4«5 



426 THE YOUNG AMERICAN 

bpund hSB r e« o wceajQt4he»-owB-goil. If this invention has 
reduced England to a third of its size, by bringing people 
so much nearer, in this country it has given a new celerity 
to time, or anticipated by fifty years the planting of tracts 
of land, the choice of water privileges, the working of mines, 
and other natural advantages. Railroad iron is a magician's 
rod, in its power t o evoke t h e sleeping energies of land and 
water. 

""The railroad is but one arrow in our quiver, though it 
has great value as a sort of yard-stick, and surveyor's line. 
The bountiful continent is ours, state on state, and territory 
on territory, to the waves of the Pacific sea; 

'*Our garden is the immeasurable earth. 
The hearen's blue pillars are Medea's house." 

The task of surveying, planting, and building up on this 
immense tract, requires an education a nd a sentunent com - 
mensurate thereto. A consciousness of this fact is beginning 
to take the^ac'e of the purely trading spirit and education 
which sprang up whilst all the population lived on the 
fringe of sea-coast. And even on the coast, prudent 
men have begun to see that every Amftrififtn should be 
educated wit h a view to the values of lan d.^ T he arte o f 
e^neenng and of architectu re ar*^ st.nHiftH; ocientific agri- 
culture is an object of growing attention; the mineral riches 
are explored; limestone, coal, slate^ and iron; and the value 
of timber-land s is enh anced. 
"Columbus alleged ^sa reason for seeking a continent in 
the West, that the harmony of nature required a great tract 
of land in the western hemisphere, to balance the known 
extent of land in the eastern; and it now appears that we 
must estimate the native values of this broad region to re- 
dress the balance of our own judgments, and appreciate the 
advantages opened to the hiraian race in this coimtry, which 
is our fortunate home. The land is th e appo i nted remed y 
for jghatgv er is false a nd^^ntasticjn our culture, ine con - 
tihent we inhabit is toFe^ph>^ic ancf food for our mind as 
well as our body. The land, with'Its tranquiltizing, sanative 
influences, is to repair the errors of a scholastic ^nd tra- 



THE YOUNG AMERICAN 427 

ditional education^ and b ring us into just relations wit h men 
anotmngs. 

The habit of living in the presence of these invitations of 
natural wealth is not inoperative; and this habit, combined 
with the moral sentiment which, in the recent years, has in- 
terrogated every institution, usage, and law, has, naturally, 
given a strong direction to the wishes and aims of active 
young men to withdraw from cities, and cultivate the soil. 
This inclination has appeared in the most unlooked for 
quarters, in men supposed to be absorbed in business, and 
in those connected with the hberal professions. And, since 
the walks of trade were crowded, whilst that of agriculture 
cannot easily be, inasmuch as the farmer who is not wanted 
by others can yet grow his own bread, whilst the manu- 
facturer or the trader, who is not wanted, cannot, — ^this 
seemed a happy tendency. For, beside al l t he moral bene fit 
which we mav expect from th e _fannSl"y pro lession, wnen a 
man enters it considerately, this promised the conquering 
of the soil, plenty, and beyond this, the adorning of the 
country with every advantage and ornament which labor, 
ingenuity, and affection for a man's home, could suggest. 

Meantime, with cheap land, and the pacific disposition of 
the people, every thing invites to the arts of agriculture, of 
gardening, and domestic architecture. Public gardens, on 
the scale of such plantations in Europe and Asia, are now un- 
known to us. There is no feature of the old coimtries that 
strikes an American with more agreeable surprise than the 
beautiful gardens of Europe; such as the Boboli in Florence, 
the Villa Borghese in Rome, the Villa d'Este in Tivoli, the 
gardens at Munich, and at Frankfort on the Main: works 
easily imitated here, and which might well make the land 
dear to the citizen, and inflame patriotism. It is the fine 
art which is left for us, now that sculpture, painting, and 
religious and civil architecture have become effete, and have 
passed into second childhood. We have twenty degrees of 
latitude wherein to choose a seat, and the new modes of 
travelling enlarge the opportunity of selection, by making 
it easy to cultivate very distant tracts, and yet remain in 
strict intercourse with the centers of trade and population. 



428 THE YOUNG AMERICAN 

And the whole force of all the arts goes to facilitate the 
decoration of lands and dwellings. A garden has this advaor 
tage, that it makes it indifferent where you live. A well- 
laid garden makes the face of the country of no account; 
let that be low or high, grand or mean, you have made a 
beautiful abode worthy of man. If the landscape is pleasing, 
the garden shows it, — ^if tame, it excludes it. A little grove, 
which any farmer can find, or cause to grow near his house, 
will, in a few years, make cataracts and chains of moun- 
tains quite unnecessary to his scenery; and he is so contented 
with his alleys, woodlajids, orchards, and river, that Niagara, 
and the Notch of the White Hills, and Nantasket Beach, 
are superfluities. And yet the selection of a fit house-lot 
has the same advantage over an indifferent one, as the 
selection to a given employment of a man who has a genius 
for that work. In the last case, the culture of years wlU 
never make the most painstaking apprentice his equal; no 
more will gardening give the advantage of a happy site to 
a house in a hole or on a pinnacle. In America, we have 
hitherto little to boast in this kind. The cities drain the 
country of the best part of its population: the flower of the 
youth, of both sexes, goes into the towns, and the country 
is cultivated by a so much inferior class. The land, — ^travel 
a whole day together, — looks poverty-stricken, and the 
buildings plain and poor. In Europe, where society has an 
aristocratic structure, the land is full of men of the best 
stock, and the best ciilture, whose interest and pride it is to 
remain half the year on their estates, and to fill them with 
every convenience and ornament. Of course, these make 
model farms, and model architecture, and are a constant 
education to the eye of the surrounding population. What- 
ever events in progress shall go to disgust men with cities, 
and infuse into them the passion for country life and countiy 
pleasures, will render a service to the whole face of this 
continent, and will further the most poetic of all the oc- 
cupations of real life, the bringing out by art the native 
but hidden graces of the landscape. 

I look on such improvements, also, as directly tending to 
endear the land to the inhabitant. Any relation to ^ 



THE YOUNG AMERICAN 429 

land, the habit of tilling it, or mining it, or even hunti ng 
o nlt. geMmea the feeling oLMttiQtiaffi..ZIie-Who keeps 
fih np on itj or he who merely uses it as a supp ort to his 
desk and ledger, orjo his manufactory, values it less. The 
vast majority 01 the people of this country ^ve "by the land, 
a nd carry its quality m t neif "mannei^and"'oplfitDlis: We 
in the Atlantic states, bv positi on, have been""umimiefcial/ 
and h ave, as I said ^ imbibed jasily an European cuir 
ture. L uckily for us, now that stea m has narr owed the 
A tkntic to a strait, th e nervous, rocky West is intruding a 
new and continental element into the national mind, and we 
sfiairyet have an^tonrertcaiTge^ How much better when 
the whole land is a garden, and the people have grown up 
in the bowers of a paradise. Without looking, then, to those 
extraordinary social influences which are now acting in pre- 
cisely this direction, but only at what is inevitably doing 
around us, I think we must regard the land as a command- 
ing and increasing power on the citizen, the sanative and 
Americanizing influence, which promises to disclose new vir- 
tues for ages to come. 

2. In the second place, the uprise and culmination of the 
new and anti-feudal power of Commerce, is the pohtical 
fact of most significance to the American at this hour. 

We cannot look on the freedom of this country, in con- 
nection with its youffirwithQUt a pregentimem^grliere 
shall laws and institutions exist on some scale of proportidor 
to the majesty of , nature. Tojpen legis lating^ for the area 
betwixt the two nceanSr betwixt the snows and the trogic s^ 
somewhat -Of-thfii-gra^^ty^ of natu re will infu se itself into 
the cQde.---AheteiQgenfiQiJB.j}Qpina5pn cro^^ all shipa 
from all comers of the world to the great gates of North 

andlhence proceeding inward to the prairie and the moim- 
tains, and quickly contributing their pnvate thought to 
the pubUc opinion, their toll to the treasury, and" their~v6 te 
to the election, it"cann bt"5e doubted that tne legislatioBTo f 
this' country sho\iCTT)ec ome more catholic and cosmopolitan 
thairihat bl any other." It seems so easy for America to 
"iSspfeiaRh expi e aB the most expansive and humane spirit; 



430 THE YOUNG AMERICAN 

new-bom, free, healthful, strong, the land of the laborer^ 
of the democrat, of the philanthropist, of the believer, of 
the saint, she should speak for the human race. It is the 
country of the Future. From Washington, proverbially 
''the city of magnificent distances," through all its cities, 
states, and territories, it is a country of beginnings, of proj- 
ects, of designs, and expectations. 

Gentlemen, there is a sublime and friendly Destiny by 
which the human race is guided, — the race never dying, the 
individual never spared, — to results affecting masses and 
ages. Men are narrow and selfish, but the Genius or Des- 
tiny is not narrow, but beneficent. It is not discovered in 
their calculated and voluntary activity, but in what be- 
falls, with or without their design. Only what is inevitable 
interests us, and it turns out that love and good are inevit- 
able, and in the course of things. That Genius has infused 
itself into nature. It indicates itself by a small excess of 
good, a small balance in brute facts always favorable to the 
side of reason. All the facts in any part of nature shall be 
tabulated, and the results shall indicate the same security 
and benefit; so slight as to be hardly observable, and yet it 
is there. The sphere is flattened at the poles, and swelled 
at the equator; a form flowing necessarily from the fluid 
state, yet the form, the mathematician assures us, required 
to prevent the protuberances of the continent, or even of 
lesser mountains cast up at any time by earthquakes, from 
continually deranging the axis of the earth. The census 
of the population is found to keep an invariable equaUty 
in the sexes, with a trifling predominance in favor of the 
male, as if to counterbalance the necessarily increased ex- 
posure of male fife in war, navigation, and other accidents. 
Remark the unceasing effort throughout nature at somewhat 
better than the actual creatures: amelioration in natwre, 
which alone permits and authorizes amelioration in mankind. 
The population of the world is a conditional population; 
these are not the best, but the best that could live in the 
existing state of soils, gases, animals, and morals: the best 
that could yet live; there shall be a better, please God. This 
Genius, or Destiny, is of the sternest administration, thou^ 



THE YOXJNQ AMERICAN 431 

rumors exist of its secret tenderness. It may be styled a 
cruel kindness, serving the whole even to the ruin of the 
member; a terrible communist, reserving all profits to the 
community, without dividend to individuals. Its law 
is, you shall have everything as a member, nothing to your- 
self. For Nature is the noblest engineer, yet uses a grinding 
economy, working up all that is wasted to-day into to- 
morrow's creation; — not a superfluous grain of sand, for all 
the ostentation she makes of expense and public works. It 
is because Nature thus saves and uses, laboring for the 
general, that we poor particulars are so crushed and strait- 
ened, and find it so hard to live. She flung us out in her 
plenty, but we cannot shed a hair, or a paring of a nail, but 
instantly she snatches at the shred, and appropriates it to 
the general stock. Our condition is like that of the poor 
wolves: if one of the flock wound himself, or so much as 
limp, the rest eat him up incontinently. 

That serene Power interposes the check upon the 
caprices and ofliciousness of our wills. Its charity is not our 
charity. One of its agents is our will, but that which ex- 
presses itself in our will, is stronger than our will. We are 
very forward to help it, but it will not be accelerated. It 
resists our meddling, eleemosynary contrivances. We de- 
vise sumptuary and relief laws, but the principle of popu- 
lation is always reducing wages to the lowest pittance on 
which human life can be sustained. We legislate against 
forestalling and monopoly; we would have a common 
granary for the poor; but the selfishness which hoards the 
com for high prices, is the preventive of famine; and the law 
of self-preservation is surer policy than any legislation can 
be. We concoct eleemosynary systems, and it turns out that 
our charity increases pauperism. We inflate our paper 
currency, we repair commerce with unlimited credit, and are 
presently visited with unlimited bankruptcy. 

It is easy to see that the existing generation are con- 
spiring with a beneficence, which, in its working for coming 
generations, sacrifices the passing one, which infatuates the 
most selfish men to act against their private interest for 
the public welfare. We build railroads, we know not for 



432 THE YOUNG AMERICAN 

what or for whom: but one thing is certain, that we who 
build will receive the very smallest share of benefit. Bene- 
fits will accrue; they are essential to the coimtry, but that 
will be felt not until we are no longer countrymen. We 
do the like in all matters: — 



Man's heart the Almighty to the Future set 
By secret and inviolable springs." 



We plant trees, we build stone houses, we redeem the waste, 
we make prospective laws, we found colleges and hos- 
pitals for remote generations. We should be mortified to 
learn that the little benefit we chanced in our own x)er80D8 
to receive was the utmost they would yield. 

The history of commerce, is the record of this beneficent 
tendency. The patriarchal form of government readily 
becomes despotic, as each person may see in his own family. 
Fathers wish to be the fathers of the minds of their children, 
and behold with impatience a new character and way of 
thinking, presuming to show itself in their own son or 
daughter. This feeling, which all their love and pride in 
the powers of their children cannot subdue, becomes petu- 
lance and tyranny when the head of the clan, the emperor 
of an empire, deals with the same difference of opinion in 
his subjects. Difference of opinion is the one crime which 
kings never forgive. An empire is an immense egotism. 
"I am the State," said the French Louis. When a French 
ambassador mentioned to Paul of Russia, that a man of 
consequence in St. Petersburg was interesting himself in some 
matter, the Czar interrupted him — ^"There is no man of 
consequence in this empire, but he with whom I am actually 
speaking; and so long only as I am speaking to him, is he 
of any consequence." And Nicholas, the present emperor, 
is reported to have, said to his council, "The age is em- 
barrassed with new opinions; rely on me, gentlemen, I shall 
oppose an iron will to the progress of liberal opinions." 

It is easy to see that this patriarchal or family manage- 
ment gets to be rather troublesome to all but the papa; the 
sceptre comes to be a crowbar. And this unpleasant ^o- 
tism^ Feudalism opposes, and finally destroys. The king is 



THE YOUNG AMERICAN 433 

compelled to call in the aid of his brothers and cousins, and 
remote relations, to help him keep his overgrown house in 
order; and this club of noblemen always comes at last to have 
a will of their own; they combine to brave the sovereign, 
and call in the aid of the people. Each chief attaches as 
many followers as he can, by kindness, maintenance, and 
gifts; and as long as war lasts, the nobles, who must be 
soldiers, rule very well. But when peace comes, the nobles 
prove very whimsical and uncomfortable masters; their 
frolics turn out to be insulting and degrading to the com- 
moner. Feudalism grew to be a bandit and brigand. 

Meantime Trade had begun to appear: Trade, a plant 
which grows wherever there is peace, as soon as there is 
peace, and as long as there is peace. The luxury and neces- 
sity of the noble fostered it. And as quickly as men go to 
forei^ parts, in ships or caravans, a new order of things 
springs up; new command takes place, new servants and 
new masters. Their information, their wealth, the corre- 
spondence, have made them quite other men than left their 
native shore. They are nobles now, and by another patent 
than the king's. Feudalism had been good, had broken the 
power of the kings, and had some good traits of its own; but 
it had grown mischievous, it was time for it to die, and, as 
they say of dying people, all its faults came out. Trade 
was the strong man that broke it down, and raised a new and 
unknown power m its place. It is a new agent in the world, 
and one of great function; it is a very intellectual force. This 
displaces physical strength, and instals computation, com- 
bination, information, science, in its room. It calls out all 
force of a certain kind that slumbered in the former dy- 
nasties. It is now in the midst of its career. Feudalism is 
not ended yet. Our governments still partake largely of 
that element. Trade goes to make the governments in- 
significant, and to bring every kind of faculty of every in- 
dividual that can in any manner serve any person, on sale. 
Instead of a huge Army and Navy, and Executive Depart- 
ments, it converts Government into an Intelligence-office, 
where every man may find what he wishs to buy, and ex-' 
pose what he has to sell, not only produce and manufactures, 



434 THE YOUNG AMERICAN 

but art^ skill, and intellectual and moral values. This is 
the good and this the evil of trade, that it would put every 
thing into market, talent, beauty, virtue, and man himself. 

By this means, however, it has done its work. It has its 
faults, and will come to an end, as the others do. The 
philosopher and lover of man have much harm to say of 
trade; but the historian will see that trade was the prin- 
ciple of Liberty; that trade planted America and destroyed 
Feudalism; that it makes peace and keeps peace, and it 
will abolish slavery. We complain of its oppression of the 
poor, and of its building up a new aristocracy on the ruins 
of the aristocracy it destroyed. But the aristocracy of 
trade has no permanence, is not entailed, was the result of 
toil and talent, the result of merit of some kind, and is 
continually falling, like the waves of the sea, befor^ new 
claims of the same sort. Trade is an instrument in the 
hands of that friendly Power which works for us in our own 
despite. We design it thus and thus; it turns out otherwise 
and far better. This beneficent tendency, onmipotent with- 
out violence, exists and works. Every line of history in- 
spires a confidence that we shall not go far wrong; that 
things mend. That is the moral of all we learn, that it 
warrants Hope, the prolific mother of reforms. Our part 
is plainly not to throw ourselves across the track, to block 
improvement, and sit till we are stone, but to watch 
the uprise of successive mornings, and to conspire with the 
new works of new days. Government has been a fossil; it 
should be a plant. I conceive that the office of statute law 
should be to express, and not to impede the mind of man- 
kind. New thoughts, new things. Trade was one instru- 
ment, but Trade is also but for a time, and must give way 
to somewhat broader and better, whose signs are already 
dawning in the sky. 

3. I pass to speak of the signs of that which is the sequd 
of trade. 

In consequence of the revolution in the state of sodety 
wrought by trade, Government in our times is beginning to 
"vear a clumsy and cumbrous appearance. We have already 

^n our way to shorter methods. The time is full of good 



THE YOUNG AMERICAN 435 

signs. Some of them shall ripen to fruit. All this bene- 
ficent socialism is a friendly omen, and the swelling cry of 
voices for the education of the people, indicates that Govern- 
ment has other offices than those of banker and executioner. 
Witness the new movements in the civilized world, the Com- 
munism of France, Germany, and Switzerland; the Trades' 
Unions; the English League against the Corn Laws; and the 
whole Industrial Statistics, so called. In Paris, the blouse, 
the badge of the operative, has begun to make its appearance 
in the salooijs. Witness, too, the spectacle of three Com- 
munities which have within a very short time spnmg up 
within this Conmionwealth, besides several others un- 
dertaken by citizens of Massachusetts within the territory 
of other States. These proceeded from a variety of motives, 
from an impatience of many usages in conmion life, from a 
wish for greater freedom than the manners and opinions of 
society permitted, but in great part from a feeling that the 
true offices of the State, the State had let fall to the ground; 
that in the scramble of parties for the public purse, the main 
duties of government were nmittftH,— t.hft Hnty tn iTist-^ipt. thft 
i gnorant, to supply the poor with work and wjth gnnH 
guidance . These communists preferred the agricultural 
lite as the most favorable condition for human culture; but 
they thought that the farm, as we manage it, did not satisfy 
the right ambition of man. The farmer, after sacrificing 
pleasure, taste, freedom, thought, love, to his work, turns 
out often a bankrupt, like the merchant. This result nodght 
well seem astounding. All this drudgery, from cockcrowing 
to starlight, for all these years, to end in mortgages and the 
auctioneer's flag, and removing from bad to worse. It is 
time to have the thing looked into, and with a sifting criti- 
cism ascertain who is the fool. It seemed a great deal worse, 
because the farmer is living in the same town with men who 
pretend to know exactly what he wants. On one side, is 
agricultural chenodstry, coolly exposing the nonsense of our 
spendthrift agriculture And ruinous expense of manures, 
and ofiFering, by means of a teaspoonful of artificial guano, 
to turn a sandbank into com; and, on the other, the farm- 
er, not only eager for the information, but with bad crops 



436 THE YOUNG AMERICAN 

and in debt and bankruptcy, for want of it. Here are Et- 
zlers and mechanical projectors, who, with the Fourierists, 
undoubtingly aflirm that the smallest union would make 
every man rich; — ^and, on the other side, a multitude of 
poor men and women seeking work, and who cannot find 
enough to pay their board. The science is confident, and 
siirely the poverty is real. If any means could be found to 
bring these two together! 

This was one design of the projectors of the Associations 
which are now making their first feeble experiments. They 
were founded in love, and in labor. They proposed, as you 
know, that all men should take a part in the manual toil, and 
proposed to amend the condition of men, by substi- 
tuting harmonious for hostile industry. It was a noble 
thought of Fourier, which gives a favorable idea of bis 
system, to distinguish in his Phalanx a class as the Sacred 
Band, by whom, whatever duties were disagreeable, and 
likely to be omitted, were to be assumed. 

At least, an economical success seemed certain for the 
enterprise, and that agricultural association must, sooner or 
later, fix the price of bread, and drive single farmers into 
association, in self-defence; as the great commercial and 
manufacturing companies had already done. The Commu- 
nity is only the continuation of the same movement which 
made the joint-stock companies for manufactures, mining, 
insurance, banking, and so forth. It has turned out cheai)er 
to make calico by companies; and it is proposed to plant 
com, and to bake bread by companies. 

Undoubtedly, abundant mistakes will be made by these 
first adventurers, which will draw ridicule on their schemes. 
I think, for example, that they exaggerate the importance 
of a favorite project of theirs, that of paying talent and 
labor at one rate, paying all sorts of service at one rate, say 
ten cents the hour. They have paid it so; but not an in- 
stant would a dime remain a dime. In one hand it became 
an eagle as it fell, and in another hand a copper cent. For 
the whole value of the dime is in knowing what to do with 
it. One man buys with it a land-title of an Indian, and 
makes his posterity princes; or buys com enough to feed 



1 



THE YOUNG AMERICAN 437 

the world; or pen, ink, and paper, or a painter's brush, by 
which he can communicate himself to the human race as if 
he were fire; and the other buys barley candy. Money is 
of no value; it cannot spend itself. All depends on the skill 
of the spender. Whether, too, the objection almost uni- 
versally felt by such women in the conmiunity as were 
mothers, to an associate life, to a common table, and a com- 
mon nursery, &c., setting a higher value on the private 
family with poverty, than on an association with wealth, will 
not prove insuperable, remains to be determined. 

But the Communities aimed at a higher success in se- 
curing to all their members an equal and thorough education. 
And on the whole, one may say, that aims so generous, and 
so forced on them by the times, will not be relinquished, 
even if these attempts fail, but will be prosecuted until they 
succeed. 

This is the value of the Conmiunities; not what they have 
done, but the revolution which they indicate as on the way. 
Yes, Government must educate the poor man. Look across 
the country from any hillside around us, and the landscape 
seems to crave Government. The actual differences of men 
must be acknowledged, and met with love and wisdom. 
These rising grounds which command th